November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'All!

by Kathleen Y'Barbo

We all know the story: pilgrims, Indians, and a bounteous banquet table made a simple celebration into the first Thanksgiving. Right? And, of course, President Lincoln was the first to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Maybe not.

Before the pilgrims stepped off Plymouth Rock to pop corn with the Indians, celebrations of Thanksgiving had taken place in at least two Texas locations, and the president of a nation called Texas had declared a holiday well before Mr. Lincoln. Hard to believe?

Celebration at Amarillo, 1541

After surviving a series of severe storms that nearly destroyed the expedition, Coronado and his men set up camp beside Palo Duro Canyon and celebrated a meal of thanks. Painter Frederick Remington’s painting of the event shows Spaniards and Indians trekking together across the canyon. This event is arguably the first recorded Thanksgiving in what is now the United States.

Thanksgiving at El Paso, 1598

A second documented Thanksgiving celebration – this also by Spaniards - occurred when the Onate expedition reached El Paso after a long journey across the desert. Members of the expedition feasted together with Tigua Indians in what historian J.D. Murrah calls, “a formal declaration of Thanksgiving to God for providing for them and protecting them in the harsh environment…” This was more than twenty years before the “official” Thanksgiving event at Plymouth Rock.

The First Thanksgiving Holiday

In addition to celebrating what could be considered the first Thanksgiving, Texas also holds the honor of declaring the first official Thanksgiving holiday. Even before President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday in 1863, President Sam Houston of the Republic of Texas – its own country at the time - declared March 2, also known as Texas Independence Day, as a day of thanksgiving. Thus, the country of Texas formally recognized Thanksgiving as a national holiday. In 1849, Governor George Wood of what is now the state of Texas proclaimed Thanksgiving Day to be the first Thursday in December.

Twice the Celebration: Two Thanksgiving Holidays

In 1939, Texas had two “official” Thanksgiving days. Desiring more time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the official Thanksgiving date to the fourth Thursday in November. Governor James Allred refused to make the change, thus the annual Texas vs. Texas A&M football game went on as scheduled, on the traditional Thanksgiving day rather than the one celebrated by the rest of the nation.

So next time you’re tempted to think of Thanksgiving as a simple celebration with turkey and tomahawks, think again. In addition to these examples, there are many more, not the least of which was held in San Augustine, Florida in 1565. In each of these celebrations, however, there is one common thread: Giving thanks to God for His blessing.

What are you thankful for this week?

My list is long, so I will leave you with this sentiment: Happy Thanksgiving, Y’All!


Tina Dee Books said...

Hi Kathleen,

Great old west Thanksgiving history. I never knew some of this.

Thanks for the great info.

Happy Thanksgiving!

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

I have a long list to be thankful for as well, Kathleen. I learned something from your post. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Thanks for the interesting information, Kathleen.

Pamela J said...

I never would have known all the neat information on Thanksgiving's pasts. It's great that someone (you) found out about it.
I have learned that if I start focusing on what I am thankful for, I find more for which to be thankful. My list can be very long or it can be just one item, depending on what I am practicing looking for. Goes along with the scriptures 'to be thankful in everything' and to 'look on the lovely things'. For today, I am very thankful for God's Word that we can live by if we choose to look in that direction. To eliminate the negative, which is definitely from God's enemy, is to focus on things other than God and His Word.
Pam W

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks, Kathleen,
I am a native Texan and the wife of a Texas history teacher, and I never knew all this about Thanksgiving. It was SO interesting. Thanks.

Vickie McDonough said...

Thanks for sharing this info about Thanksgiving, Kathleen. I'd never heard most of this before.

For His Glory said...

I'm thankful that God continues to give us second and third and fourth and so on chances after we continue to screw up.

Teresa Slack said...

Pretty interesting stuff. I visited the Palo Dura Canyon years ago and had no idea how close I was to such a historical event. Thanks for enlightening me.