Sorry, Pilgrims, Thanksgiving Isn’t About You.


Forget “Black Friday” sales or pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes.

Thanksgiving isn’t about them.

Forget the Pilgrims or the Plymouth Rock or the Wampanoags or Squanto.

It isn’t about them either.

At least it wasn’t in 1863, when Thanksgiving Day, as we know it now, first came to be.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t thinking about starched collars or big feasts when he set the precedent for this national holiday.  He was thinking about a nation at war.  He was thinking about economic trials and debt that could cripple the welfare of every individual.

He was thinking about families ripped apart by ideological differences.  He was thinking about a country where half of the nation wanted one thing–and the other half wanted something else.  When he made his Thanksgiving Day proclamation on October 3, 1863, he was thinking of a country very much like the one in which we find ourselves today.

He recognized that yes, the country was in a big mess.  But in spite of that, “order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed.”  He realized that he was not responsible for any of that.  It wasn’t his presidency or policies.  As Lincoln wrote,

No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, has nevertheless remembered mercy.

Just as the original Thanksgiving was celebrated because of God’s providence for a great harvest, Lincoln instituted the first national day of Thanksgiving to celebrate God’s providence and care for His creation.

So forget the Mayflower, and turkey, and parades.  That’s not what Thanksgiving is all about.Resist the stores suggesting you need to spend the day shopping.  Forget the grocery store circulars with pictures of roasting turkey.  There are many things competing for your thoughts that fourth Thursday of November.  I would venture to say that 99% of them aren’t what Thanksgiving is really all about.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God’s gifts should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

On this Thanksgiving Day, forget the Pilgrims, the sales, the commercials. Forget the Mayflower, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.

It’s not about them, it’s about being thankful that in spite of whatever may be wrong, there is still so much right.  That whatever small bit of good there is in your life is there as a gift from God.

So instead of giving cranberry sauce, give thanks.


  1. Sarah Josepha Hale was the one that had the insight that it should be a national holiday and worked tirelessly to get it official for 17 years. She knew that it was important that the entire nation celebrate together.

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