Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. However, the first Thanksgiving feast took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 242 years earlier in 1621. Throughout the Colonial era, English settlers in New England held days to give thanks to God for their blessings, such as much-needed rainfall, and later on for victories in the Revolutionary War.
What we celebrate as the first Thanksgiving brought together the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors. People from different backgrounds, cultures, and values, all sitting at the same table. While they had a lot of differences, the first Thanksgiving was about finding a way to connect and celebrate over what we had in common. It’s easy to see our differences, but there is real value in celebrating what we all have in common.
According to noted historian and author Melanie Kilpatrick, in Lincoln’s proclamation, he stated the blessings for which all Americans could be grateful: “peace with foreign nations, expanding borders, growing population, and farms, mines and industry that were producing well. He was asking Americans in the North and the South to look beyond the current horrors to a better day when the country is ‘permitted to expect continuance of years with large increases of freedom.’”
While many continued to celebrate Thanksgiving, Lincoln’s proclamation did not have the force of law. For that, The Thanksgiving celebration needed an act of Congress. The country would have to wait until 1941 when Congress finally took action passing a resolution naming the fourth Thursday of November as the permanent date of the national holiday of Thanksgiving,
This Thanksgiving, when we pause to remember all that we have to be thankful for, it will be different than last year and every Thanksgiving before it. The thought of being able to gather together with the people we love most is something that we took for granted before COVID.
So much has changed over the last 20 months, and so many of us have suffered immeasurable grief throughout the pandemic. We must remember all that have suffered in our thoughts and prayers this Thanksgiving.
To quote the great Ronald Reagan, “Thanksgiving is a time for expressing gratitude for family, friends, and good fortune. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the founding of our nation, the principles and ideals it stands for and the ongoing need for citizens to give back to community and country to uphold that vision. Often, however, the true meaning of the day can get lost in the chaos and commercialization of the holiday season, prompting a need to redirect Americans’ attention back to the cause of all the celebrations.”
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:24)
Perry Hooper is a former Alabama Representative and currently president of Hooper and Associates in Montgomery. He was the Alabama Trump Victory Chairman in 2016 and an Alabama Trump Team Leader in 2020. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected]