For the past few years, I, Mac, have made it my endeavor to rescue one of the best holidays ever from the clutches of commercial consumerism. Nope, not Christmas! Commercialism, frankly, is what has elevated Christmas to such high importance in our society, even among those that hold no allegiance to its true meaning! Ask any child: Christmas, they’ll say, is the most important holiday of the year. From a Christian religious standpoint, Easter is equally, if not more important, but because of the financial gains Christmas offers to so many businesses, it is, by far, hyped beyond any other holiday of the year.
In all the commercial hype of Christmas and, before that, Halloween (the original “Hallmark holiday”), humble little Thanksgiving sits nearly forgotten, if not downright resented, as an unmarketable interruption before the glitz and glitter of Christmastime. In fact, when the annual observance of Thanksgiving was established, it was scheduled to be the LAST Thursday of November. Retailers later lobbied for it to be moved to the FOURTH Thursday, to extend the Christmas shopping season. As evidenced by Target’s displays on the day after Halloween, and the doorbuster sales scheduled ON Thanksgiving Day, the retail sector has continued to treat Thanksgiving as an obstacle ever since.
But Thanksgiving is SO important! As much as I love celebrating Christ’s birth and the giving nature of the Christmas season, I still think the beauty of a grateful heart certainly deserves a big time celebration!
I have not always felt passionate about this holiday. As a child, our Thanksgiving was pretty much exactly like Christmas, but with no decorations, no music, and no presents! What could be more boring to a kid than a big sit down meal of foods that generally aren’t that kid friendly, then a whole day sitting at the grandparents house (when it’s generally too chilly to play outside) while all the adults sit in a food induced hypnosis, watching football or napping! How much worse when, as can easily happen, the adults set a negative attitude by approaching the holiday as a dreadful family OBLIGATION!
Next week, I will share some ideas to save the next generation from viewing Thanksgiving with a negative spirit, but before I do, allow me to share Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Up to this point, the United States had not celebrated an annual Thanksgiving holiday. Keep in mind, as you read, that these words were spoken in the context of the Civil War — the bloodiest conflict in American history up to that point. It’s hard to be unmoved by such humble gratitude in the face of adversity.
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
- No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
- It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, 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 the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
- In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
- Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.”
Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.