Noah Webster described Thanksgiving as “The act of rendering thanks or expressing gratitude for favors or mercies,” and it has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789.
Governors of Massachusetts would proclaim a local holiday of Thanksgiving, but it was Sarah J. Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who promoted a national day of Thanksgiving.
It was during the Civil War under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln that Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863. By the late nineteenth century in Boston—now a thriving nexus of ethnic, religious and racially diverse residents, and far more diverse than the early Pilgrims could ever have expected—Thanksgiving began to include ethnic foods and traditions which their ancestors brought to the New World.
Each group broadened the meaning of Thanksgiving and food became a way of preserving one’s background while assimilating into the “Pilgrim culture.” Though Thanksgiving today often is celebrated with food, football and parades, it replicates the first thanksgiving held by the Pilgrims in 1621. In Boston, there was the annual Thanksgiving Day parade, held from 1929 to 1943.
Thanksgiving Traditions in Boston is a compilation of more of Boston’s shared traditions and anecdotes, both traditional and created.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Anthony M. Sammarco is a noted historian and author of over seventy books on the history and development of Boston, and he lectures widely on the history of his native city. His books Lost Boston, The History of Howard Johnson's: How A Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became a Roadside Icon, Christmas Traditions in Boston, and The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History have been bestsellers.