Holidays are interesting events. Often their original meaning and even purpose is lost over time. This is especially true of Thanksgiving, an American holiday celebrated on the next to last Thursday in November.
It’s true that since colonial times various states and cities had held harvest celebrations but there was no national holiday called Thanksgiving on the calendar.
Sarah Josepha Hale was the first figure to seriously urge that a national day of giving thanks be established. Beginning in 1827 and continuing for the next 36 years (!) she used her position as editor of the influential Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine to press governors, senators, and presidents alike to create such a day of gratitude and reflection.
At the same time there was another younger person working in a distance frontier tavern, serving shots of applejack brandy to all who’d listen to his folky but pointed stories.
And he too was questioning the injustice of inequality.
In 1863 that same man would make Hale’s dream of a national Thanksgiving holiday a reality.
He did so to remind the nation during the darkest days of the Civil War that there are some truths and values so universal that they are worth fighting for no matter the cost or the time it takes… thoughts captured so well by the Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain as he spoke to his men on the eve of the critical battle of Gettysburg.
Yes, the person who created Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the U.S. was Lincoln. His courage and strength saved a nation. His fight to do so was not easy as shown in Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln. He never gave up. There is a lesson there.
Perhaps when we celebrate Thanksgiving this year we should do more than remember Pilgrims in funny hats. In addition to giving thanks for the turkey and dressing, perhaps we should also give thanks for the many brave men AND women who have throughout history fought so bravely with words and deeds for the human rights that should belong to all people.
That feast should belong to us all everywhere.
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2012