“Thanksgiving” has been celebrated around the world in different cultures, at different times, and in different ways, for a long time. The ancient Israelites celebrated a form of thanksgiving in their “Feast of Ingathering,” at the end of the agricultural year (see Exodus 23:16; 34:22). “‘The feast of ingathering’... means the worship of a thankful mind on account of the implanting of good... and so on account of regeneration.... ‘The feast’ [represents] worship of the Lord and thanksgiving.” (Arcana Caelestia 9296)
I was reminded recently that “Thanksgiving” wasn’t established as a national holiday in the United States until 1863, during the Civil War. Lincoln’s proclamation about the importance of gratitude seems just as relevant today:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with blessings.... To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. ... No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.... It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also...commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable...strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal 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.” Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!