So it’s a few days after Thanksgiving. Do you remain disappointed in your gluttonous performance, or did you effectively rationalize that you maintained your composure because you didn’t eat nearly as much as Uncle Lou?
I learned a lot this past week about Thanksgiving. No, not about the Pilgrims and Native Americans — more about what we have come to recognize as the holiday.
As a national holiday (Union at the time), Thanksgiving didn’t happen until 1863. Sara Josepha Hale sent a letter to President Lincoln, who thought it was a good idea. In his 1863 proclamation, President Lincoln reminded Americans that the Civil War would eventually end. He asked them to look beyond current issues to a better day when the country is “permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”
President Lincoln went on in his proclamation to remind Americans: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” He called on every American to celebrate Thanksgiving “with one heart and one voice.”
It was a message of hope and capacity for renewal. On a much different scale, it sounds like history may be in need of repeating itself.
Sara Josepha Hale was a farsighted magazine editor who believed that a Thanksgiving celebration would have a “deep moral influence” on the American character, helping to bring together the country, which was divided over the issue of slavery. We were embroiled in the Civil War, where death, suffering and grief were ever present. Yet she persevered over a decade-long campaign to celebrate American life. For her it would be a homegrown holiday filled with the joy of living in the greatest place on earth and being an American.
Most states had its own Thanksgiving Day somewhere between September and December when Ms. Hale started her plan to nationalize the day. What would the uniform date be? Well, Ms. Hale had done her homework and determined that George Washington had selected the last Thursday in November as the date for the first national Thanksgiving all the way back in 1789. So it would be.
Thank you, Ms. Hale, for your foresight and diligence. We have added football to your homegrown holiday, and lots of shopping, too. Yes, ma’am, there is lots for which to be thankful. I, for one am thankful every day. It’s a good habit to have.