Sharing the harvest
The first Thanksgiving in North America was celebrated by English explorer, Martin Frobisher and his crew as they searched for a Northwest Passage. In 1578 Frobisher held a celebration somewhere in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for having survived the long journey. The Canadian celebration has not always been an annual celebration of the harvest, as Thanksgiving has been used to celebrate long journeys, the end of the Seven Years War, and even recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness. In 1957 Canada officially proclaimed the 2nd Monday in October as “A Day of General Thanksgiving… for the bountiful harvest”.
Traditions of giving thanks for the year’s harvest are universal. Thanksgiving has been officially observed in the United States every year since 1863. In the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November be set aside for Thanksgiving. Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the celebration to the next-to-last Thursday during the Great Depression (1939) to allow merchants an extra week of sales before Christmas.
We should all be thoughtful of those less fortunate, especially at this time of year. Thanksgiving has been a time of charity since the Wampanoag shared their bounty with the Pilgrams. According to the latest statistics (USDA/ERS, Household Food Security in the United States: 2004), an estimated 38 million Americans, or 12%, are food insecure, meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. America’s Second Harvest reports (Hunger in America 2006) that “more than one-third (35%) of client households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage.”
Learn more about how to end hunger.