Giving Thanks

Sarah Josepha Hale Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in America from the earliest days, but it became an official national holiday in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the day, finally responding to a forty-year campaign for a national, annual holiday that was led by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book and author of “Mary had a Little Lamb.”

It became tradition for each subsequent president to issue an annual proclamation naming the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. For instance, the 1879 proclamation from President Rutherford B. Hayes read: “I earnestly recommend that, withdrawing themselves from secular cares and labors, the people of the United States do meet together on that day in their respective places of worship, there to give thanks and praise to Almighty God for His mercies and to devoutly beseech their continuance.” In 1939, at the urging of merchants who wanted a longer Christmas shopping season, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date to the second to the last Thursday in November.

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