When most of us think of Thanksgiving tradition we go all the way back to 1621 and the first Thanksgiving feast attended by fifty-three Pilgrims and ninety Native Americans. It isn’t hard to imagine that they had much to be thankful for. They had made it to the New World, succeeded in surviving the harsh New England winter, made friends with the Wampanoag Tribe, learned their method of fertilization and crop planting in the hard soil, and harvested a nice bounty.
Our founding fathers left these subsequent celebrations up to the states and although most of them observed a day of Thanksgiving, it wasn’t on the same day. That changed in October of 1863 when Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday.
For those of you not familiar with American History, our country was in the middle of a Civil War in 1863. Abraham Lincoln had lost two young sons – Eddie in 1850 and Willie in 1862. Willie was said to be the darling of the Lincolns and his death was horrific for the President and First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln. Her already fragile mental condition was taxed beyond its limits.
Yet, in the face of all of these challenges and heartbreaking events, President Lincoln found the fortitude to be grateful. And perhaps he was wise enough to believe that a day set aside for America to offer thanks as a nation might give us all a common ground for a moment in time.
This is his Proclamation:
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 consiousness 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
Wow. We complain if the gravy is lumpy.
While so many of us have anxiety over sitting across the table from someone in our family who causes angst, or we dread seeing our aging parents in even more feeble condition than the year before, or we can’t agree on visitation with children going with the exes – ex-wife or ex-husband – or whatever the insult is that hasn’t been forgiven and will never be forgotten, I wonder if we would even be celebrating this day if the human ability to be grateful and forgiving wasn’t larger than all other issues.
I have much to be thankful for. My gratitude hasn’t suffered the slings and arrows of so many in our country and in the world. Hurricane Sandy dealt a harsh blow to portion of the East Coast. Our entire nation is still struggling to pull ourselves out of debt. Businesses are still closing. A local hospital in my area just laid off 100 employees. News of the fighting in the Middle East draws us to our televisions where the visions of the wounded, especially the children, brings me to tears.
Yet, there is still so much to be grateful for.
As Abe Lincoln said, ” We 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.”
And I wish peace, harmony, tranquility and union for every person and in every family. Perhaps if we start within our own communities and families, it will spread out across the globe.
Lovely post! I have to laugh just a little though. My husband Alex is Native American. He insists that we do not eat turkey this year in protest of celebrating that Native Americans had their country stolen from them. (He gets on these kicks once in a while.)
That reminds me of a Jon Stewart comedy bit where he says he is celebrating in the traditional style, inviting the neighborhood and then killing them and taking their land. I can certainly understand your husband’s lack of enthusiasm for the holiday. Perhaps you can let him handle the cooking. That will give you another reason to be thankful.
This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read. We do indeed have much to be thankful for. I wish all my American family and friends a blessed and safe Thanksgiving. – Maureen
Wow, what a nice comment. Thanks Maureen.
Many like Franklin thought the turkey would be a much better national bird than the eagle.
Sometimes big ideas like world peace and cooperation seem so difficult because of the scale – but if everyone would only do what you suggest in your last line, it might actually be possible.
Thanks for the thoughtful post
It is overwhelming to think of the trouble around the world and our individual helplessness. But we can make a difference a little closer to home and it will mean the world to them. Happy Thanksgiving Karen.
Beautiful. Thank you for reminding me of the nobility of Lincoln and the origin of the day. For a Republican, Lincon was OK.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m glad you found something of interest here. Happy Thanksgiving.
Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents. The amount that he suffered while serving office is astounding. I would love to have more politicians like him. I’m not saying he was perfect: I could go on about his faults. But he usually admitted when he was wrong and he always tried to do what was best. He had the ability to learn from his mistakes and to improve. I don’t see that in DC now.
It breaks my heart too. I think our presidents used to take the office with the hope of making America better, not just making their wallets and contacts deeper. Lincoln must have had enormous courage. And I admire him as well.
Reading Lincoln’s words reminds me how blessed I really am. Thanks, Renee. Happy Thanksgiving.
They are powerful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Darla.
Absolute perfection, Renee! I am blessed, not stressed.
Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!
Thank you MJ. I hope your holiday is fabulous.
Lovely table and perfect message, Renee. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in Gobbler’s Knob.
Thank you Georgette. How lovely of you to remember the name of our farm. Of course, it’s perfect for this particular holiday isn’t it? Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.
We truly do have so much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!!
Yes we do Piper. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
I am afraid I I am guilty of being a little judgemental when it this American Holiday comes along. It seems every year it becomes more and more like “Black Friday Eve” as I watch the ads for the stores opening earlier and always listen for that report that will tell me someone got trampled trying to get their deal.
I humbly thank you, Renee, for reminding me to look at the people like you that still celebrate the day with heart felt thanks.
This is a beautiful post.
I must admit to having angst about the store sales. I do not participate in the craziness and object to the way they call it “Black Friday”, since that terminology has another meaning for me as well. And it is getting worse. This year they are opening ON Thanksgiving. In fact, I suppose it was the drive to push the meaning out of the occassion that led me to looking into what was meant by the Proclamation that declared it a holiday in the first place. Thank you for your kind comment. My blogging friends are something else I am thankful for.
Renee, this is so spot on! I hadn’t ever read this particular proclamation of Lincoln’s. Just awesome….the whole post.
The older I get, the more I see these iconic figures as whole beings. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this particular part of our history. It had meaning for me too. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Really nicely done. Thanks for digging up the actual history too!
Thank you Lisa. Interesting, isn’t it?
This really gives perspective to Thanksgiving. Thank you for such an inspiring post… 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope it is wonderful.
Perspective is everything, and so very well done … and Happy Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Do you celebrate with the traditional American meal or do something Italian style?
Being on at my wife’s side, definitely American style. However, when growing up, it was combo … that is lasagna or homemade ravioli as a side dish.
Yum, the best of both worlds.
Thank you so much, Renee, both for your words above and for Lincoln’s words. He’s my alltime hero–a good man who was also great.
His words resonate as soundly today, don’t they? Happy Thanksgiving El.
I love this post. And, I did not know that it was Lincoln whose proclamation solidified this as our day of Thanksgiving. The man was truly a remarkable leader. Thank you for educating me today. Thank you for being here, for sharing your passion and your insight with your fortunate readers.
Thank you for such a lovely comment. It touched me as well, so I thought my bloggings buddies would enjoy it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Yes about fifty something celebrated. That was minus the 10 that died on the voyage and the fifty something that died that first winter. And yet they gave thanks. I continue to be astonished by such unwavering faith, trust and acceptance of God’s Will as they understood it.
It’s astounding isn’t it? Thanks for adding a few more details. They make it even more spectacular.
Happy Thanksgiving, Renee! Beautiful post, fascinating reminder of the birth of such a great holiday. A reminder that, no matter what is going on in our lives, we still have much to be thankful for.
So true Monica. I hope your day is full of blessings.
Lovely. Abe’s message and your post are both timely and relevant. Sometimes our blessings aren’t easy to recognize, until we put things into the proper perspective. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and a day rich in blessings.
I think we can use a little of Abe’s wisdom right now. I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful.
How lovely Renee! And I am thankful to have had the great fortune to have made your acquaintance!
Likewise dear friend. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Amen! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
I hope you and your family will as well.
It was wonderful to read these words of Lincoln. Sometimes we forget to thank for everything that we get from others.
Let me thank you for all the support and blessing you send my way. Happy thanks giving to you and your family, Renee. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed this. And thank you for all of your support as well. I really do feel blessed to have such wonderful blogging friends.
I’m always surprised when I remember that Lincoln’s entire presidency took place during the Civil War. And he lost two children within twelve years. Yet he somehow managed to keep his perspective and priorities straight. Gratitude may be one of the healthiest emotions we can have, and thanks to Lincoln, we remember that at least once a year.
Wonderful post, Renee. Thank you — and Happy Thanksgiving.
Thank you Charles. The older I get, the more I think of our presidents in terms of their entire lives and where they were emotionally when they sat at the head of the country. Rounding out Lincoln’s life around the trauma of the Civil War makes me feel enormously compassionate for him as a person. It must have been very difficult.
Stories like these reminds me to be thankful everyday. Of having a family, friends, a job to feed the people I love, of a health that is priceless , of a God who forgave me again and again. Thanksgiving is a beautiful event to reflect on our blessings, big or small. Happy Thanksgiving!
I always get the feeling from your blog that you are achieving that every day. You seem to be well grounded and appreciative all of the time. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Renee, such a beautifully written message! I love how you remind us that no matter what, we always have something to be thankful for. I think many times we get caught up in what we don’t have and forget to acknowledge all that we do have. It was also great to read Abe’s message! I hope you had a lovely thanksgiving in the company of your friends and loved ones! 🙂
Yes we do have much to be thankful for. And hearing it from dear ole Abe is another reminder.
Gosh Renee this is such an interesting Thanksgiving post. I really appreciated learning all the history behind the feasting. I I didn’t even know that it was Lincoln who thought of a day of thanks for the nation. Amazing to know that he thought of it during the civil war!
btw There’s a wonderful exhibition on the Civil War at the Huntington Museum in Pasadena.
I didn’t know that Pasadena had an exhibition on the Civil War. Gee, I guess we traditionally think about the conflict being so strictly between the North and the South that we forget it had an effect on the entire country.
I went to the exhibition last month
The Huntington Museum is one of the finest research libraries in the world. The collection includes the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the double folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, early editions of Shakespeare and hundreds of letters, diaries, and photos from the Civil War
Beautiful post! I feel just the same. Life isn’t perfect, and yet I have so much more to be grateful for than to complain of! If only I could keep that in mind year round. It is one of the things I am trying to be more mindful of.
Thanks for the text from President Lincoln…a truly great man. Inspiring! ~ Sheila
Thanks for that lovely comment Sheila. It is inspiring to think of it arising from such a tumultuous period.