In the United States, on every fourth Thursday in November, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest, which is what we normally associate with the origin of the feast we celebrate today with turkey and various side dishes. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale — author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” among countless other compositions, launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians, earning her the nickname the “Mother of Thanksgiving.”
Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November. In 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
Today, the Thanksgiving holiday has taken on more of a secular character, wherein the religious aspect of the feast has been mitigated. This trend of turning religious holidays into secular holidays has continued to increase and thus the meaning and significance of why we celebrate them is lost. Christmas advertisements are now being promoted prior to the celebration of Halloween. Even the meaning of Halloween has been forgotten. All Hallows Eve was the vigil that was kept before the celebration of All Saints Day. As Catholics we are also reminded about thanksgiving every time we attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, which is our response to this august sacrament. This Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks and praise to God as a reminder that all we have received is a gift from his Bountiful Goodness.