As Thanksgiving gets closer, have you wondered about Thanksgiving in Colonial Charleston? Fortunately, the Charleston County Public Library’s Charleston Time Machine comes to the rescue.
“It’s Thanksgiving season again, and for most people that means a day of rest, relaxation, and feasting with close friends and family. As a historian working in an old city, I have learned that Thanksgiving also includes at least ten people asking me the same question: “When was the first Thanksgiving in Charleston?” I don’t mind the question at all, but the answer is generally more complex than most people care to hear. If you don’t mind a quick stroll through the historical record of early South Carolina, however, I’m happy to offer an answer to this annual holiday question.
First, let’s start with the most basic definition of the subject. Thanksgiving is a day, specifically a “holy day,” set aside to give thanks—for our family and friends, for the necessities of life, and for the bounty we might enjoy beyond the bare necessities. In short, the roots of Thanksgiving are religious in nature. In twenty-first century United States, however, Thanksgiving is, for the most part, a secular holiday with mild to strong religious overtones, depending on your point of view. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that this holiday is firmly rooted in the religious practices of the European men and women who crossed the Atlantic Ocean to settle this nation.
The English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Swiss, and other people who ventured to the New World brought with them a host of traditions and practices that shaped the cultures of many different colonies, now nations. Regardless of the national differences among these settlements, in each it was common for the “commander-in-chief” to issue a proclamation, at least once a year, setting aside a specific “holyday” or “holiday” for quiet reflection. That is to say, a day for people to refrain from all work and to focus their thoughts and prayers on a specific topic. Such proclamations might occur at any point during the calendar year, and might occur more than once a year, depending on what was happening in the local community” To listen to the podcast CLICK HERE.