Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s all the excitement, family, food, and joy of Christmas without the presents and all the special services. Yes, when you grow up a pastor’s kid and serve as clergy, all those special Christmas services are exhausting. My “relaxing Christmas holiday” starts about 26 December. This year, as the last couple years, I’ll be on duty so my holidays will start even later.
But not Thanksgiving. This weekend will be filled with all the fun traditions that are a part of the Army and our family.
Prior to 1863, Thanksgiving was a local holiday. It was primarily celebrated in New England. Where it was celebrated elsewhere, when it happened was driven by the States or local counties. Sometimes, it was celebrated as early as July and as late as January. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, was largely unknown in the American South. Sarah Hale, the influential editor of a popular woman’s journal and the one responsible for raising the money to build the Bunker Hill Memorial, had been unsuccessfully campaigning for it to become a national holiday since 1846. Her work came to fruition when Abraham Lincoln, probably looking for something to brighten the country as 1863 was the year of Vicksburg and Gettysburg. A year that thousands upon thousands of Americans died in the Civil War. Lincoln instituted a day of thanksgiving as an effort to unify the country. Prior to thanksgiving, the only other national holidays were Washington’s birthday and Independence Day.
“The year which is drawing to it’s close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies… I do therefore, invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent father who dwelleth in the heavens.” Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863
Whatever your reason for celebrating, may your thanksgiving be filled with joy!