It is the time of year when most people begin to think about gifts — both receiving them and giving them.
Black Friday, the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season, is tomorrow, though we have been hearing about “Black Friday sales” since before Halloween. The holiday seasons get more jumbled with each passing year, it seems.
As the spirit of giving spreads and grows, The Frederick News-Post is looking to help local nonprofits with their holiday wish lists. In today’s newspaper, you will find a page with notes from several nonprofit groups listing their needs.
We encourage you help out in any way you can. Any gift, no matter how large or small, can fill the heart of the giver with happiness and a sense of pride. Helping those in need can multiply these feelings.
After all, giving is an integral part of Thanksgiving.
Eons ago, it started as a harvest festival, a holiday in almost every culture. When the fields were ripe with grain and the trees laden with fruit, our early ancestors marked the occasion with a feast and gave thanks to whatever God or gods they worshipped.
Most of us have learned the story of the first Thanksgiving in the New World, celebrated by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1621, with Native Americans who had helped the colonists survive their first year. It has become part of the shared memory of the American people.
However, historians now believe that thanksgiving services were held as early as 1607 in Virginia, and even earlier in colonies of Spanish and French farmers in the New World.
In Britain, people had been giving thanks for successful harvests for thousands of years, so it was quite appropriate to carry it over to America.
The British harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near the Harvest Moon, the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox, in late September. Historians believe the Plymouth holiday was probably around Sept. 28.
The new Americans marked many other successful harvests in the years after that first one, and it is likely they often celebrated with feasts from the bounty.
After the American Revolution, the day of thanksgiving evolved from a harvest festival to a day celebrating God’s blessings that the Americans saw in their new nation. President George Washington, at the request of Congress, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.
The holiday was observed intermittently in the first decades of our nation’s history, with the non-religious Thomas Jefferson ignoring it altogether. The modern observance of a day of Thanksgiving began with President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863.
As divided as we are today, it is important to remember that during the darkest days in our country’s history, the terrible Civil War of 1861-65, Lincoln and most Americans set aside a day to count their blessings.
Hundreds of thousands were already dead. The brutal, bloody battles at Vicksburg in the west and Gettysburg in the east were only a few months past. And Lincoln had delivered his sorrowful yet hopeful Gettysburg Address a few days earlier.
It was in this environment that Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise” for the last Thursday in November. Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated annually ever since in late November (now always on the fourth Thursday).
The holiday has not always fallen on easy days. The country has often been at war in the intervening 156 years, and men and women have been dying for the United States for the last 18 years in the Mideast war. Many Thanksgiving tables will have empty places.
But Americans still have much for which to be thankful, and we know it. Charitable giving always spikes at this time of year, as we look around our homes and families, and know we really are a people who are blessed with abundance.
That is why we have decided to dedicate today to help fulfill wishes of our local nonprofit groups who work throughout the year to improve lives and lift up people in need. We hope that you will take a moment to read the page with the wish lists, and see what you might do to make a difference.
Consider giving on this day of thanksgiving and praise.