It’s wasn’t quite the cheerful, auspicious event that we all learned about early on in our grade school experiences, but the beginnings of the Thanksgiving Day holiday were rooted in America’s early Pilgrim settlers breaking bread with Native Americans, most notably the Wampanoag tribe. The intent was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and the many blessings that accompanied the victory over the many challenges to survival.
The idyllic prose of the accounts of the original Thanksgiving Day in the Plymouth Colony in the year 1621, may have been an early example of superlative license and not too far removed from a story that could have been written by today’s most accomplished content creators. William Bradford, the first Governor of the Plymouth Colony, surely cannot be faulted too critically for embellishing the story-line of an event that would eventually define and establish the very culture of a budding new nation. Who could know on that first day of abundant gratitude that such a seemingly humble event would become America’s second most favorite holiday?
Official recognition of the holiday wouldn’t be realized for more than two hundred years when President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November as the official holiday of thanksgiving in America. Struggling through very difficult economic times early in his term, President Roosevelt (to address those months of November that contained five Thursdays) astutely declared the last Thursday in November the official Day of thanks and cemented the economic importance of Thanksgiving Day as the beginning of the Christmas Holiday season. Few would argue that Roosevelt could imagine at that time the significance this simple act would have on the future of the nation’s economy or the impact it would have on altering the emphasis of the truly unique American holiday.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, soon became the largest shopping day in America as shoppers prepared for the gift-giving holidays that were to follow. While the significance of Black Friday, as to the start of annual holiday spend, is beginning to fade from consumer favor the National Retail Federation (NRF) is still predicting that 2021 retail holiday sales will increase by 8.5% to 10.5% over 2020. But the act of opening on Thanksgiving Day by businesses eager to get a jump-start on the competition is becoming less popular with consumers who continue to recognize the last Thursday of each November as a time to be set aside for appreciating the many things more important to them than shopping for the holidays.
In response to this evolving consumer sentiment, many major retailers are rescinding decades-old operating policy and have announced plans to close the doors in observance of Thanksgiving Day. The change appears to recognize the importance customers place on observing the one day where we all suspend our professional endeavors and join with family, friends and associates to celebrate and express our gratitude for those blessings we share.
Over the many decades since that first special day of Thanksgiving in 1621, many of our perceptions and sense of purpose for the holiday has undergone change. While each new generation has initiated new family traditions of celebration, the meaning of this truly unique American holiday and the definition of gratitude remain consistent in our hearts and minds.
Melody Beattie, popular American author, says, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
From the staff of marketing professionals at Junction Creative Solutions: Our sincere thanks for your association and a Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!