Give thanks today for Sarah Hale. As we gather to gorge on turkey, stuffing, veggies, and pie (and in my case pie and pie and pie), we usually pay some homage to the 1621 feast of the Plymouth settlers and Wampanoag. But Thanksgiving didn’t become a regular holiday nationwide until 1863. It was due largely to the efforts of Sarah Hale. A publisher and tastemaker in the line of Oprah Winfrey, Hale cajoled countless governors, congressmen, and state officials to promote the establishment of a day of thanksgiving. She harangued William Seward into her cause and wrote to more than one sitting president; finally getting through to Abraham Lincoln.
Why go to all the trouble? Because in the midst of a moment of division and strife, Hale felt a day of Thanksgiving would help the nation remember who we are. In being grateful, we focus on the things that are most important to us. Gratitude is a mirror of our hearts. In asking for a “Great American Festival of Thanksgiving” Hale also calls it the “Union Festival of America” and highlights the need for unity and permenance. This is in the middle of the Civil War; unity and permenance must have felt in short supply. Yet Hale presses for a day when we would celebrate these things, precicely because we needed to remember how important they are.
So this Thanksgiving, raise a glass (or piece of pie) for Sarah Hale. And as your family lists off the things you are grateful for, as what that says about what is most imporant for you. Perhaps, even take as part of your prayers, Lincoln’s words from the Thanksgiving Proclamation:
It has seemed to me fit and proper that [gifts of peace and prosparity] should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, … 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.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!