Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Since World War II, Americans have gathered together on the fourth Thursday of November to celebrate the year’s bounty and blessings, sharing food, friendship, and — in many houses — football. This year, the fourth Thursday of November happens to fall very late in the month, and unusually, it also coincides with the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights). If you are Jewish, we wish you a very Happy Hanukkah in addition to Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving in North America has its roots in feasts of thanks giving held by early immigrants to this continent. The pilgrims who landed in Massachusetts in the 1620s held such a feast in 1621; the party apparently went on for three days. Thanksgiving became a federal holiday under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln; in 1863, Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving on November 26th.
During the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the date of Thanksgiving was fixed to the fourth Thursday of November. Most years, Thanksgiving falls on or before November 25th, but sometimes November 1st falls on a Friday or Saturday, and that makes the fourth Thursday fall late in the month.
This results in a shorter shopping season, because Christmas is always December 25th (and could be a reason why more retailers have chosen to open on Thanksgiving this year, a trend we very much dislike and oppose).
Thanksgiving ought to be about reflecting and enjoying the company of family and friends, not shopping and working. We don’t get enough leisure time or rest time in this country, and that’s a real shame.
From President Barack Obama’s Thanksgiving address:
We give thanks to everyone who’s doing their part to make the United States a better, more compassionate nation – who spend their Thanksgiving volunteering at a soup kitchen, or joining a service project, or bringing food and cheer to a lonely neighbor.
That big-hearted generosity is a central part of our American character. We believe in lending a hand to folks who need it. We believe in pitching in to solve problems even if they aren’t our problems. And that’s not a one-day-a-year belief. It’s part of the fabric of our nation.
And we remember that many Americans need that helping hand right now. Americans who’ve lost their jobs and can’t get a new one through no fault of their own. Americans who’ve been trapped in poverty and just need that helping hand to climb out. Citizens whose prayers and hopes move us to act.
We are a people who are greater together than we are on our own. That’s what today is about. That’s what every day should be about. No matter our differences, we’re all part of one American family. We are each other’s keeper. We are one nation, under God.
That core tenet of our American experience has guided us from the earliest days of our founding – and it will guide us to a future that’s even brighter than today.
Here are some of the things we’re thankful for:
- We’re thankful that voters in Washington overwhelmingly defeated Initiative 517, Tim Eyman’s most self-serving initiative ever. I-517 was crushed this fall with 62.71% of the vote, setting a new record for the failure of a Tim Eyman measure, percentage-wise. NPI helped organize the coalition against I-517.
- We’re thankful for filibuster reform, and for Harry Reid’s courage in bringing forward a proposal to prevent Republicans from robotically blocking any of President Obama’s nominees from being confirmed. We’ve been longing to see the Senate return to operating by majority vote for a long time.
- We’re thankful for the election of Pope Francis. In Francis, the Roman Catholic Church has a true leader focused on reform, a pontiff who cares deeply about economic justice and economic security for all.
- We’re thankful that workers in Washington are demanding fair wages and benefits, and delighted that voters in SeaTac have passed Proposition 1, the Good Jobs initiative, which will raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour, which will make a big difference for many low income families.
- We’re thankful that a military strike on Syria was averted with the creation of an international framework to dismantle the Assad regime’s chemical weapons arsenal. And we’re thankful that U.S. efforts to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear program have met with initial success.
- We’re thankful that so many people keep the spirit of volunteerism alive in our neighborhoods, in cities big and small, and towns far and wide.
- We’re grateful for the work of our partner organizations: Progressive Radio Northwest, Responsible Choices Washington and TaxSanity.org.
- We’re thankful that activist friends in British Columbia are still committed to protecting wild places like Clayoquot Sound, which are truly some of our region’s most majestic natural treasures, worth preserving.
- We’re thankful for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and for the increased protections it provides to Native American women and women who do not identify as heterosexual.
- We’re thankful that marriage equality has come to California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii, and we’re grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the “Defense of Marriage Act” as unconstitutional.
Finally, we’re thankful for our servicemembers, particularly the sailors and aircrew that have been working in the Philippines to help survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan recover from one of the worst storms to make landfall in recorded history.
We hope your Thanksgiving Day is pleasant and enjoyable.