History of Thanksgiving


By Mark Swarbrick

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln issued this proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving…And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him…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 Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

This proclamation is viewed as the beginning of the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day, though it’s tradition dates back to  the Pilgrims of the 15th century who held the first Thanksgiving feast to celebrate and give thanks to God for the abundance they experienced after they abandoned socialism. (For more information about the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving celebration, see my article Here: Thanksgiving – The True Story ) But it wasn’t until Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863 that it became an official holiday. What prompted President Abraham Lincoln to establish such a national holiday? 

Most people do not realize that it is all due to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale played a very large role in making Thanksgiving Day an annual national holiday. Over thirty years before Abraham Lincoln issued his proclamation, she had been writing magazine articles urging for a national holiday in which America would give thanks to God. In 1846, now as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Mrs. Hale launched a letter-writing campaign to support her cause. Finally on September 28, 1863, she wrote directly to President Lincoln, asking him to use his powers to create the holiday. Her 36-year quest was finally fulfilled when President Lincoln responded by issuing the proclamation the following month.

Just a bit of American history that, unfortunately, most school children are no longer taught. Our national Thanksgiving holiday is one more reminder that America was founded by devout men and women, most of whom were Christians. Our laws and traditions, and the blessings this country has received, reflect that heritage. Let us remember to realize that Thanksgiving, like Christmas, are Christian holidays. The poorest people in America have more than most of the people in the world. Let us all remember to thank God for all of His blessings, including the gift of such noble people as Abraham Lincoln and Sarah Josepha Hale. 

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