Many of us know the first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration in Massachusetts attended by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. However, you may not know California has a rich Thanksgiving tradition that dates back to the founding of our state.
In November 1850, Governor Peter H. Burnett, at the urging of many New Englanders who had come to California looking for gold, issued a proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a legal holiday in the Golden State. This was 13 years before President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Turkey was on the table at many of the larger feasts in California that year, but in the mining camps where many of the settlers lived, roast jackrabbit was the main course.
The New England settlers invited those not familiar with the tradition to join in and, on November 30, 1850, as many as 50 celebrations took place up and down the state.
That tradition of sharing California’s great bounty continues to this day. Thankfully, jackrabbit as a main course, does not.
California’s farmers lead the nation in producing much of the bountiful food that will be served on tables across our great nation this Thanksgiving, and every day.
The people of California are among the most generous on Earth, reaching out to help those in need, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.
Our local food banks provide hundreds of thousands meals to residents in need of healthy food all year long.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation this year, I am reminded that while we have much to be thankful for, we have many challenges that we must face as a people standing in solidarity with freedom and democracy.
With the recent events in Paris and other terrorist attacks across the globe, I am reminded of a speech I studied in school given by President Franklin Roosevelt in the troubling times just before World War II.
The “Four Freedoms” speech was a call to the world about American ideals of individual liberty, one that rings as true today as it did in 1941.
“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms,” President Roosevelt told Congress. “The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want…everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear…anywhere in the world.”
On Thanksgiving as we give our prayers of thanks for the bounty we are all so blessed to have, I urge everybody to remember the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States and the men and women who have sacrificed so much to make and keep this the greatest country on Earth.
On Thanksgiving, remember this one point: We are thankful for the freedom we have and are grateful for those who sacrifice so much to make sure we can live free.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and God Bless the United States of America.