By Joan Brown Wettingfeld
As an institution Thanksgiving has changed little over the years and its meaning has survived the test of time. It is still, it seems, the least commercialized of all our holidays. Its customs have evolved over the years shaped by time, social change and technology. There are few of us who do not know stories of its origins, but some of its history needs fleshing out.
When we think of Thanksgiving we immediately connect with the role the Pilgrims played, but we should also remember that we are indebted to a Victorian magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, who was the force behind making Thanksgiving our national holiday.
For decades she led a campaign to turn a long-held New England tradition into a national one. It was she who prompted Abraham Lincoln to proclaim a national Thanksgiving which will mark its 136th anniversary this year.
Very few countries have national days of thanksgiving, which makes this a holiday that is considered typically American. The idea of giving thanks is not unique to our society because such celebrations hark back to ancient times.
However, it was our Anglo-American forbears who probably first brought the idea to us through their knowledge of an old English custom known as