By David Langbart
Thanksgiving is considered by many to be the quintessential American holiday. As Thanksgiving 1918 approached, Americans had more reason than the usual to give thanks. On November 11, 1918, Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to an effective end. In the wake of that event, the United States made an attempt to broaden the application of Thanksgiving to a selected world-wide audience.
On November 13, the Department of State sent a the following telegram, personally drafted and signed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, to its diplomatic representatives in the capitals of the victorious powers. The message went to the American embassy or legation in Belgium, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, and Siam.
Not all countries responded. Among the responses, the government of Greece appointed November 28 a national holiday to celebrate “deliverance from the yoke of foreign domination;” in Brazil, the government declared November 28 a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing and further stated that “Brazil wishes to associate herself in this thanksgiving with the people of North America who both in time of peace and war have been her friends;” and in great Britain, while there was not enough time to make arrangements for a general celebration, a service took place at Saint Martin in the Fields, attended by a representative of the King, other principals of the UK government, and members of the U.S. embassy. Several other countries designated November 28 a national holiday.
President Wilson issued the traditional Thanksgiving Proclamation to the American people and it was distributed to American diplomatic and consular employees around the World.
Sources: Unnumbered Department of State Telegram to U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Belgium, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, and Siam, November 13, 1918, File 811.407/63a, and Unnumbered Telegram to U.S. Embassy Japan, November 19, 1918, File 811.407/63b, both in 1910-29 Central Decimal File, Record Group 59, National Archives.