Ask around the Thanksgiving table what everyone’s thankful for as 2016 draws to a close.
MORE than two weeks after the stunning presidential election, Americans should be ready to discuss and celebrate things for which we’re still thankful.
If everyone’s willing to avoid personal attacks — and the carving knife is out of reach — ask around the table what we’re most thankful for as 2016 draws to a close.
History provides inspiration for those at a loss for words.
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The conversation may also be spiced up with a reminder that Thanksgiving was started by a group of radical immigrants.
Fleeing oppressive government and persecution for their religious beliefs, the Pilgrims established a new home in America where they could worship freely and start a new life. Established residents welcomed these strange newcomers, helped feed them and joined their celebration.
Yes, a political message of American unity and optimism has always been part of Thanksgiving, as much a fixture as turkey.
Thanksgiving takes on extra significance during times of change and conflict, when we particularly need togetherness and comfort provided by the ritual feast.
George Washington called for a national Thanksgiving holiday after the Revolutionary War ended. He wanted people to celebrate not only the harvest and victory, but creation of the United States and its Constitution.
Washington suggested Americans give thanks “for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness … for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”
Nearly a century later, in 1863, President Lincoln set a fixed date for Thanksgiving, on the last Thursday of November. The gathering was considered an opportunity to help unite a nation divided by the Civil War.
Scrapes and bruises from our bitter election pale in comparison to the country’s scarring during Lincoln’s time, but his advice is still helpful.
Lincoln suggested Americans pray for healing “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.”
The following century, as the country recovered from the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving ahead to the second to last Thursday. This was economic stimulus, extending the Christmas shopping season.
Some states objected and the holiday became muddled. Congress went back and forth on the date in late 1941 until an agreement — on the fourth Thursday in November — was reached and signed by the president, shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack pulled the U.S. into World War II.
A year later, FDR marked the first official modern Thanksgiving with a somber proclamation:
“The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.
“In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.
“It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, ‘Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection,’ and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven.”
Amen, and pass the gravy before it gets cold.