“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to prepare their houses for the winter, being well recovered in health and strength, and plentifully provisioned; for while some had been thus employed in affairs away from home, others were occupied in fishing for cod, bass, and other fish, of which they caught a good quantity, every family having their portion. All the summer there was no want. And now, as winter approached, wild fowl began to arrive, of which there were plenty when they came here first, though afterwards they became more scarce. As well as wild fowl, they got abundance of wild turkeys, besides venison, etc. Each person had about a peck of meal a week, or now, since harvest, Indian corn in that proportion; and afterwards many wrote at length about their plenty to their friends in England, — not feigned but true reports.” – William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement 1608-1650
And so began a tradition in America of giving thanks for the blessings God has so richly bestowed upon us. President George Washington declared a day of “PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness” in 1789, creating the first national day of Thanksgiving. But it was a letter from Sarah J. Hale, editor of Ladies’ Magazine, who is credited with helping establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Her letter to President Abraham Lincoln led to his 1863 proclamation establishing the last Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving holiday. The official date was later moved to the fourth Thursday in November as a compromise between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress, Roosevelt preferring the fourth Thursday to provide more time for holiday shopping.
Here are some ideas to help you and your family prepare your hearts for a day of Thanksgiving:
- Start by reading President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789.
- Then read President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving from 1863, declared in the midst of the Civil War.
- The tradition of issuing Thanksgiving Day proclamations has continued. President George W. Bush declared Thursday, November 22, 2001, a National Day of Thanksgiving – a particularly heartfelt proclamation following the events of September 11.
- You can be there for the sailing of the Mayflower! The You Are There series of radio broadcasts were dramatizations of historical events presented as live radio coverage. You Are There: The Sailing of the Mayflower originally aired in 1947 and was narrated by CBS news reporter John Daly.
- In 1943, a series of Norman Rockwell paintings based on President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech were published in the Saturday Evening Post. One of those, Ours to Fight For — Freedom from Want, shows a family Thanksgiving like only Rockwell could portray. The paintings went on tour around the country raising money for war bonds.
- To put the whole family in the Thanksgiving spirit, read An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott.
- An archived edition of The Teaching Home Newsletter provides a Bible Unit Study for Thanksgiving Week. The focus is on praising God for who He is, and thanking Him for what He has done. You’ll also find many other Thanksgiving links, along with a Thanksgiving message from “Little Bear” Wheeler on remembering the sacrifices of the Pilgrims.
- Living Book Curriculum Holiday Helper: Thanksgiving
Based on Charlotte Mason’s ideas, this free download includes copywork, picture studies, poems, and stories that will inspire your child.
- Enjoy a Thanksgiving Unit Study: Fun Family Ideas from the LaCelle family that includes thought-provoking questions, writing, map skills, research, and lots of book ideas.
- Cindy Downes has put together a Pilgrims-Thanksgiving Unit study that includes many links, book selections, hands-on activities, and more.
- For older students, Heart of Wisdom offers a free study on “A Thankful Woman.” (.pdf)
- Love to Learn Place has put together Thanksgiving Day activities that start with a study of the Mayflower Compact before moving on to fun and food!
- Annie’s also has a Thanksgiving Lesson for Kids that focuses on being thankful.
- Thankfulness is a character trait we want to encourage all the year long. Enjoy this Thankfulness Character Study from Homeschool Helper.
- Many will recognize this poem of Thanksgiving by Henry Coyle .
- If you are looking for music appropriate to the season, you’ll appreciate these Thanksgiving and Harvest Hymns from CyberHymnal.
- What Thanksgiving would be complete without turkey? Your children will enjoy these fun turkey activities from A Kid’s Heart.
- If you are looking for a meaningful Thanksgiving craft, make a Garland of Gratitude, a simple way to watch the “gratitude grow each year.”
- The Old Schoolhouse Magazine provided a free Digital Holiday Supplement in 2009 that is still available. The supplement includes the Pilgrims’ story, instructions on how to re-create the first Thanksgiving feast, a family Thanksgiving activity, and wonderful holiday recipes.
- Finally, read Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret B. Pumphrey that tells the Pilgrims’ story from their beginning in Scrooby England, to their stay in Holland, until they finally made their way to American shores, celebrating what we think of as the First Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember
Beautiful, warm book for celebrating the holiday.
On Being Thankful…and a Freebie