a publick Thanksgiving in this Colony


[November 1756] Thursd 18 “fair. a publick Thanksgiving in this Colony.  I Set out in the morning with Joshua in order to go to Stonington purpusing to meeting att Groton but the ferry boat was gone over & Stayed there a great while and a small wind & Right against us that wee were Late & the ferrymans cellar being broke open ye last night & Sundrys Stole out I stopt to write a Warrant to Serch & by that means was too late for the meeting and wee went the Lower way to Stonington & Dined att Joshuas between 3 & 4. oe Clock & went to son miners & Lodged there.”


This Thanksgiving Day in Joshua’s 79th year gives a new meaning to “over the river and through the woods” to a holiday meal with family.  It also points up a difference between Thanksgiving then and now.  The Connecticut colony, according to Joshua’s Diary, as well as the colonies of New York and Massachusetts, usually held a day of Thanksgiving in early November.  These days were “publishd” at the local meetinghouse a week or so in advance and most of Joshua’s entries regarding these special days simply read something similar to this: “Wedensd 16 fair. A Thanksgiving day Throughout ye Collony. Mr. ad. Pr. al d.”  (November 1715).

Thanksgiving was a day of prayer, not of feasting and football, although it is clear from the longer entry above, and others in the Diary that it was also a day to meet with family and/or friends and to dine together.  In fact, as Pat Schaefer notes in A Useful Friend, this gathering together of family to celebrate Thanksgiving may very well have been the expected custom. She points out a sad little entry by Joshua in 1732: “Thursd 9 Cloudy.  a publick Thanksgiving & ye most Malancholy that ever I had.  no Brother Sister or Child with me.”

May you all have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving and may you celebrate it with friends and family.

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