Our little blog here at the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Bottling Company has brought you a lot of information about the history of Coke in general and of our company in particular. Now we’d like to turn our eye to a different history that has been even more influential on American culture than Coke has: Thanksgiving. Coca-Cola has always been the most American of soft drinks, and Thanksgiving is one of the most American of holidays, so the combination makes sense.
Earliest Thankgiving Celebrations
Everyone probably knows the basics of the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims, overjoyed with their bountiful harvest and thankful for God’s provision for them in the sometimes inhospitable new world, decided to hold a feast. What you might not know is that the Thanksgiving celebration as we know it did not immediately become a steadfast tradition. That first feast was a three-day affair in 1621 (the exact date is unknown, but probably between the end of September and the middle of November). The next celebration took place in 1623.
Thanksgiving in Colonial and Early Nationhood Periods
Various days of thanksgiving were declared each year during the colonial period and in the early days of the nation. The dates varied by state. The first National Proclamation of Thanksgiving declared December 18th, 1777 as a day to give thanks. A 1782 proclamation named November 28th as the day. In 1789 President George Washington created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government, observed on November 26th. In short, each of these Thanksgiving Days depended on the date chosen in the proclamation. A set day of observance would wait for more than 60 years.
Thank Abraham Lincoln
In the middle of the Civil War, the nation needed something to help define and pull together the struggling nation. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln established the observance of Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November. That tradition continued essentially unaltered until the 1940s.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, there was some confusion over just when to celebrate. In 1939 November had five Thursdays. So would we celebrate on the fourth Thursday (since typically there are only four) or would we stick with the final Thursday? Tradition won out and most people celebrated with feasts and football games on the fifth and final Thursday.
In 1941, to avoid any future confusion, Congress passed a resolution establishing the observance on the fourth Thursday of November. Thus set as federal law, the fourth Thursday still stands.
Given the widely different regions of the United States, Thanksgiving traditions also differ from area to area. One aspect remains intact across the nation, though: food. At the heart of almost every Thanksgiving celebration across the country, people eat and eat heartily. So don’t forget to stock up on your family favorite Coca-Cola products this year!