Thanksgiving Around the World, 1918

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park. 

This is a revision of an earlier post.

Tomorrow marks the centennial of the first Thanksgiving celebration after the armistice effectively ending World War I.[1]  With the end of the war, Americans had more reason than usual to give thanks.  While Thanksgiving is considered by many to be the quintessential American holiday, with the end of fighting, American officials made an effort to broaden the application of the holiday to a selected world-wide audience.

On November 13, the Department of State sent the following telegram, personally drafted and signed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, to its diplomatic representatives in the capitals of the victorious powers: Belgium, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Russia, and Siam.

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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, Romania, Russia, and Siam, November 13, 1918, File 811.407/63a

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.

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Unnumbered Telegram to U.S. Embassy Japan, November 19,1918, File 811.407/63b p1
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Unnumbered Telegram to U.S. Embassy Japan, November 19,1918, File 811.407/63b p2

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, Romania, 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.

[1] In 1918, the Thanksgiving celebration actually took place on November 28.

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