By John Peters
November 28, 2013
The origin of Thanksgiving in America is endlessly debated — Plymouth Rock, Mass., or Jamestown, Va.? Some even claim earlier such observances by the Spanish in Florida and Texas.
As the wilderness of America became a collection of colonies, and later a nation, offering thanks became a common theme among people living here. Eventually, most states recognized a day of thanksgiving, and President Abraham Lincoln is the first to call for a national recognition of the date.
One common theme emerges in all of those observances — the need to be thankful, to offer thanks, even in the midst of trials.
Those colonist at Plymouth Rock, and the ones in Virginia, were undergoing significant hardships, in a strange land, struggling much of the year just to survive. Lincoln’s proclamation came during one of the darkest chapters in American history, three years into a four-year conflict that left 600,000 Americans dead and much of the nation in ruins.
Yet during all of this, leaders in those colonies, and of this nation, understood the need to take stock of what we do have, of the good that comes even in the midst of tribulation, and to be thankful for that.
Some historians have suggested Lincoln had another motive — trying to get all of the states, those in the North and South, to agree to a single date of Thanksgiving as a means to have warring states agree on something, anything.
Even in playing a little bit of a political game, Lincoln turned to one simple principle in attempting to unify the nation — that of giving thanks.
So today, whether Thanksgiving is a time of family feasting and watching football, a day to visit friends, or to simply spend quiet time at home, make it a day to be thankful for all that we do have.