For those living in or travelling to the United States, this weekend will be filled with family, friends and fun! All because it follows the last Thursday of the month, which is Thanksgiving.
Many of us know some loose stories about pilgrims and natives eating a harvest meal together and starting this tradition. However, the question needs to be asked, “How did an early pilgrim’s harvest celebration organize itself into a national holiday?“
We have Abraham Lincoln to thank for that!
“By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, 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, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State”
Was this a first-time read?
Perhaps some of you (even living in the United States), may not have known about this little piece of history.
For my Canadian readers, our official thanksgiving (2nd Monday in October) may have started much later than Lincoln’s proclamation, but the same principles applied.
“On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Parliament of Canada proclaimed: A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(Canada))
Thanksgiving truth should be highlighted.
Unfortunately, for many areas of our Western societies, Thanksgiving has become a time to highlight sharing more than giving thanks.
Quaint stories about pilgrims and natives sharing the harvest together become the focus. Instead, we should focus on the pilgrims and natives giving thanks to God; the Creator and Sustainer for that harvest.
This is why Lincoln’s proclamation is important.
It’s important to note that many of the individual (mostly Eastern) States did celebrate a holiday of Thanksgiving following the annual harvest. However, it was Lincoln who listened to the public opinion, chose a date and created our national Thanksgiving holiday.
An action that would be followed almost 100 years later by his neighbour to North, Canada.
Before You Cut Into the Turkey
If you haven’t already done so this weekend, take some time and gather your family together. Pull up a copy of the Thanksgiving Proclamation and read it with your family.
Perhaps, end in a time of prayer, thanking the Lord for all the blessings we have received this year. Thank God that one man was brave enough and loved Him enough, to make a national day of giving thanks.
How did you think Thanksgiving became a national holiday?