June 01, 2017

#05-050: Thanksgiving

a table is spread with a typical holiday feast: turkey, gravy, casseroles, mashed potatoes, etc.
A typical Thanksgiving dinner

Note: They used to tell us that our Thanksgiving dinners went back to "the Pilgrims" in an unbroken chain. Not so!

Get Ready: Do you have an autumn celebration of the "fruits of the earth"? If you do, what is it like?

Perhaps the most noticeable American holiday in November is Thanksgiving, celebrated on the fourth (not the last) Thursday of the month.

The story we were all told in school is that the Pilgrims (some of the first English settlers on the American continent, who came to escape religious persecution) had previously had a rough winter, and only survived through the help of the local Native Americans. After a successful growing season, they all got together to celebrate the harvest.

Well. Some parts of the story work, and some don't. First off, there have been harvest celebrations in agricultural societies from time immemorial. It's true, though, that Tisquantum (Squanto), a Native American, had helped the settlers at Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620. So there was a feast in 1621, attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. But this celebration came 14 years after the first known North American "thanksgiving" observance, in what is now Virginia.

But that 1621 celebration was not the only such occasion, and there was no continuity between that event and today's observance. Dates and practices varied by region and by year until 1863.

What we do today was started (more or less) by President Abraham Lincoln during America's Civil War. The last Thursday of November was subsequently declared a day of thanksgiving by presidents until 1939, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved it to the next-to-last Thursday--in 1939, the fourth Thursday, as there were five that year--in an attempt to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and help bring America out of the Great Depression. In 1940 and 1941, then, it was on the third Thursday, as there were only four November Thursdays in those years. (Opponents of this "new" holiday called it "Franks-giving," after Roosevelt.)

In December 1941, the U.S. Congress passed a bill making the fourth Thursday the law of the land. It has been that way ever since. Note that the law not only established the date, but also made Thanksgiving a statutory holiday, rather than a matter of presidential proclamation.

Like Columbus Day (see Lesson #05-047), some Native Americans find the commemoration offensive, and celebrate alternatives on that day, such as "Unthanksgiving" and a "National Day of Mourning."


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bill
  2. continuity
  3. from time immemorial
  4. mourning
  5. persecution
  6. pilgrims
  7. practices
  8. settlers
  9. statutory
  10. the Great Depression

  1. for a long time
  2. a showing of sadness
  3. the economic crisis in 1930s America
  4. a law
  5. customs; ways of observing something
  6. being connected as a whole
  7. being mistreated for religious or political beliefs
  8. people who travel for religious reasons
  9. the group of people living in a new area
  10. relating to the law

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 1, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. f; 3. a; 4. b; 5. g; 6. h; 7. e; 8. i; 9. j; 10. c