Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. In this age of anxiety and alienation, rudeness and senseless violence, Thanksgiving offers a warm embrace, a feeling of serenity in the company of family and friends. Thanksgiving, unceremoniously set on the calendar between Halloween (not a true holiday but close) and Christmas Day, which is losing the spirit of a true holiday, has a great power to make us feel united.
Christmas, Easter and, yes, Halloween, are distinctly Christian observances, commercialized and unstuck in time as they have become. They are reminders that they are as much about marketing as they are about ceremony and tradition.
Thanksgiving is also rooted in Christianity, but it has evolved into a holiday that spills over from secular to spiritual and back again. It is a day devoted to family, friendship and love. Like many other holidays of observance, including Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Thanksgiving is about more than parades, sports and patriotism. There are no flags or speeches. Thanksgiving is about sharing.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” according to The New York Times News Service. Thanksgiving was formally moved in 1941 to the fourth Thursday in November.
Lincoln studied the Bible and might have been familiar with this passage from the Book of Exodus: “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt,” quoted in The New York Times News Service. It’s interesting to note that Lincoln referred to God but no specific faith in his proclamation, nor did he mention personal wealth or belongings. We don’t have to buy cars or computers or acquire material goods pushed by TV commercials to sit at the dinner table.