Where did Thanksgiving really come from?
It’s a relatively simple civics question, but an episode of American history that, sadly, few can answer.
As we gather together to celebrate this most reverent and solemn holiday, I hope this short piece informs and enlightens enough, so that you share it far and wide, because this is something that all Americans need to know.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday but one whose origins we’ve lost sight of.
Children’s stories of pilgrims and Indians having a meal together are nice, but not accurate. Much like Santa Claus we have a hard time believing past the age of three, although we know that there is some basic truth to the stories of Saint Nickolas, they are far from the man living on a North Pole village, and all year long manufacturing toys that are then dropped as gifts down chimneys from a flying sled pulled by flying reindeer…
So are the romantic stories about the Good Indians and the Great pilgrims, who were starving and found each other as help to further their mutual designs, so they can survive, left alone to live and prosper so they can continue to fight another day.
In reality this Thanks-Giving holiday was solidified as an annual event as a result of a Presidential Proclamation issued by our nation’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, on October 3rd, 1863.
In decreeing that as a nation we set aside the final Thursday of November as a “National Day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heaven.”
This is how Lincoln visualized and created, and then oversaw America’s first Day of Thanksgiving.
Lincoln’s Presidential Proclamation is brief, just a few paragraphs, and is one of the most beautiful literary works you will ever read and behold.
And in case you’ve never read it — you have no idea what a true American jewel you are missing.
The entire thing, Presidential Proclamation #106, can be found as written in Lincoln’s original pen on our National Archives website here: Proclamation 106 – Thanksgiving Day, 1863.
For ease of reading, I have reproduced that document below. If you have read it, I hope you’ll re-read and share it with family and loved ones this week. I read this amazing, heartfelt piece of American history every year and every year ask the same question – what chance would this great man have of being elected today?
On behalf of myself and of the Lincoln party, I would like to offer my blessings and sincere wishes, for a Happy Thanksgiving to One and All.
May the day and the hour remind us all of what we are Grateful for, in this Life of ours.