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Ninety-Five Years Ago, We Tried to Export American Thanksgiving Day Around The World

— Domani Spero

Via achives.gov,  below is an excerpt from David Langbart’s The Text Message blog post from November 20, 2012 about  Thanksgiving Day 1918. The Text Message is the blog of the Textual Services Division at the National Archives.

“Thanksgiving is considered by many to be the quintessential American holidayAs Thanksgiving 1918 approached, American had more reason than the usual to give thanks.  On November 11, 1918, Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to an effective end.  In the wake of that event, the United States made an attempt to broaden the application of Thanksgiving to a selected world-wide audience.

On November 13, the Department of State sent a the following telegram, personally drafted and signed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, to its diplomatic representatives in the capitals of the victorious powers.  The message went to the American embassy or legation in Belgium, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, and Siam.”

langbart1_thanksgiving 1918

Click on image to read the cable)

Here is the text of Secretary of State Lansing’s telegram above:

Nov 13, 1918
“You will at the first opportunity offered call attention of the Government, to which you are accredited, to the fact that on the last Thursday of November this country according to customs will celebrate a national day of thanksgiving and prayer. You may add that at this time, when there are such profound reasons for gratitude, the other victorious nations may consider it appropriate to designate Thursday, November twenty-eight, a national day of thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed upon us.”

Mr. Langbart writes:

Not all countries responded.  Among the responses, the government of Greece appointed November 28 a national holiday to celebrate “deliverance from the yoke of foreign domination;” in Brazil, the government declared November 28 a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing and further stated that “Brazil wishes to associate herself in this thanksgiving with the people of North America who both in time of peace and war have been her friends;” and in great Britain, while there was not enough time to make arrangements for a general celebration, a service took place at Saint Martin in the Fields, attended by a representative of the King, other principals of the UK government, and members of the U.S. embassy.  Several other countries designated November 28 a national holiday.

Mr. Langbart notes that President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) also issued the traditional Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 19, 1918, and it was distributed via telegram to American diplomatic and consular employees around the World.  Click here to see the two-page telegram.

Thanksgiving Day became an official Federal holiday in 1863 under President Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed it  a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.  That 1863 proclamation was reportedly written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting.  The holiday was not always a paid Federal holiday nor always on the fourth Thursday of November.  According to the CRS (pdf), a law signed by FDR on December 26, 1941, settled the dispute and permanently established Thanksgiving Day as a federal holiday to be observed on the fourth Thursday in November.

🍹 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Thank you for making us part of your day.  And if you have a bird in this year’s White House Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor🍹!! 

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