Thanksgiving Day has a history all its own, typical of American lifestyles and a time of thanks for the myriad benefits we receive. But we are winding down 2020 with one of the worst years of enormous change any of us has ever experienced.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621.

That feast lasted three days. It was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

US Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, begun with a proclamation by President George Washington after a request by Congress.

But more than a century ago, the nation was under a heavy weight of duress as the United States suffered through a highly dangerous pandemic. The Omaha World Herald on Nov. 28, 1918, strongly suggested, “See that Thanksgiving celebrations are restricted as much as possible so to prevent another flare-up.”

Like today, Americans lived under various phases of quarantines and face-mask orders. Millions mourned loved ones. And health officials in many cities issued the same holiday warning: “Stay home and stay safe.”  

The virus killed about 195,000 Americans during October, alone.

The USA — in the midst of the suffrage movement, Jim Crow and the tail end of World War I — battled the ebbing second wave of the H1N1 influenza epidemic, also known as the Spanish flu.

As the Los Angeles City Council debated theater owners, a local congregation of Christian scientists defied the city mandate and attempted to reopen church services in early November.

This led to police interrupting ceremonies and arresting four church leaders as 500 congregants crowded outside the house of worship.

Fortunately for the people of Los Angeles, these two groups were the only major organizations to openly oppose the city’s effort to curb the spread of infection. Restrictions were lifted across the city on Dec. 3.

N. Pieter O’Leary, writing for the Southern California Quarterly said “The swift response of the Los Angeles city officials initiating measures to restrict the spread of the influenza virus saved the city from the astronomical infection rates experienced in San Francisco. Acting on October 10 to invoke a partial closing ban, combined with public acceptance, the city as able to avert the crisis.”

That is truly one note from history that we’d like to see solve the 2020 crisis, which is hugely piling up death statistics, day by day.

Happy Thanksgiving, but be careful and follow the tough restrictions so that we can soon end the horror of 2020.

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