Give thanks and extend care to the less fortunate
Thanksgiving has been observed for nearly four centuries and came to Hawaii with the missionaries.
THANKSGIVING Day began to be observed by the settlers in colonial America and arrived in Hawaii with the missionaries. More than a day for families to gather for large meals, it is a time to count our blessings as individuals, families, a state and a nation.
William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, began it all in 1621 by calling for a day of thanksgiving and prayer at the end of the colonists' first harvest. The day became a yearly event beginning in 1630. George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation during the Revolutionary War and President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it as a national holiday in the midst of the Civil War.
The first Thanksgiving feast in Hawaii is not recorded in the history books. However, Hawaiian historian Rubellite "Ruby" Johnson cites missionary Lowell Smith's entry in his journal noting that "people turned out pretty well and they dined in small groups and in a few instances in large groups" to commemorate Thanksgiving on Dec. 6, 1838.
In 1841, 25 adults and 32 children in Honolulu united for Thanksgiving on New Year's Day, "donned our best apparel and sat down at the long table to enjoy a double feast," according to missionary Laura Fish Judd's "Sketches of Life in Honolulu," also cited by Johnson and displayed on the Web site of the Hawaii Mayflower Society, of which Johnson is a former governor.
Perhaps confused by the timing of those celebrations, King Kamehameha III proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday to be observed on Dec. 31, 1849. Members of the national legislature rejoiced the proclamation but not his choice of date. "To be sure," they wrote, "Thanksgiving on the 31st of December when that occurs on Monday rather shocks our ideas of the festival, which we have always been accustomed to celebrate on Thursday, and that Thursday ordinarily the last of November." They suggested that the king's ministers "consult their almanac next year before making the appointment."
The date having been settled upon, today is the time for residents of Hawaii to give thanks for what will be a record number of tourists this year, resulting in a robust economy and a bulging state budget, following the economic doldrums of the 1990s. Gasoline prices peaked in Hawaii as elsewhere following the Gulf Coast hurricanes, but they have fallen and appear to be stabilizing.
University of Hawaii football fans can be thankful that a dreadful season is about to end, and basketball fans are rejoicing a new season's spectacular start, although followed by a bump on the road.
As during the Thanksgivings of Washington and Lincoln, America is now at war. Lincoln urged citizens to thank God for their blessings and "commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged." Those words apply today, even though the civil strife is thousands of miles away.