We typically think of the first U.S. thanksgiving as a 1621 celebration at Plymouth Plantation when settlers held a feast following the harvest, a feast shared by the settlers and Native Americans. We know not everything was rosy for the settlers, nor was all harmony and joy between them and the native population.
Did you know that we celebrate it in November because President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens"? He did this during the Civil War. Despite the horrific casualties and the waste on battlegrounds, he thought Americans needed to stop and give thanks and that they needed to pray for healing of the nation's wounds. He named the final Thursday as the day of celebration; but years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving so merchants would have a longer period to sell goods before Christmas (the country was still in the midst of The Great Depression at the time). Previous presidents had declared various days of thanks but Lincoln made it one official day.
Interesting, isn't it, that President Lincoln proclaimed a day in war time? And President Roosevelt issued a declaration amid a depression?
Thanksgiving isn't just about everything coming up roses. It doesn't signal that everything in our lives is perfect. It is a reminder that even amid our tough times, we still have much for which to be grateful. Always, always, there is something for which to give thanks. Most times, in fact, there's an abundance of gifts for which to show gratitude.
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