I first posted a portion of this blog two years ago,Â on Mittenlit.com. More than 30 years ago, I stumbled across a mention of the legendary Sarah Hale and how she had single handedly convinced Abraham Lincoln to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving. At the time I was working for a small weekly newspaper and crafted an ad for Michigan National Bank in Lansing, Michigan. They are long gone, but I recently came across the ad which featured a photograph of my family sitting down for a Thanksgiving Dinner. We celebrated a week early that year and some in that photo (my dad and grandpa) are long gone. The ad went on to win a national award from a publisherâ€™s organization. It started out: â€œYou can thank Sarah Hale for Thanksgiving.â€ Although Thanksgiving didnâ€™t become a standardized national holiday until 1945, Sarah Hale, the feisty editor of Godeyâ€™s Ladyâ€™s Book, convinced President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to recognize a national day of thanks. Hale had started her quest some 40 years earlier and wrote thousands of letters to public officials asking for a national day of recognition. Hale had the power of media behind her, since Godeyâ€™s had one of the largest circulations of any magazine in the country. Hale, the editor and author who was most famous for her childrenâ€™s tale â€œMary Had A Little Lambâ€, had started the campaign as a way to unite the country. She would typically write Governors with a message asking that they use a national day of thanksgiving as a way of showing loyalty to the Constitution. (Hale may have been the original Sarah Palin with obvious exceptions.)
We all know from our grade school pageants that there would be no Thanksgiving without two English speaking American Indians Squanto and Samoset who helped the first settlers (tourists to some) in 1621 to celebrate an American tradition with less preaching, more eating and the Lions losing. Read a more detailed history of this event on todayâ€™s Garrison Keillorâ€™s â€œThe Writerâ€™s Almanacâ€.
There are some who still bemoan this outreach of generosity and 285 years later (this was BBF-before Black Friday) Mark Twain writing about Thanksgiving put it in perspective. This is what he had to say about Thanksgiving: “a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for–annually, not oftener–if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently the Lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. The original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exist–the Indians have long ago been comprehensively and satisfactorily exterminated and the account closed with Heaven, with the thanks due. But, from old habit, Thanksgiving Day has remained with us….”
Today,Â in addition to all the fixins, I will dig out “Alice’s Restaurant” and listen from start to finish.
By the way, tomorrow I will be celebrating my Grandma Nina and Native American Heritage Day or as someÂ like to call it Black Friday. I think I will have whitefish. But for today, in addition to all the traditional things for which we give thanks, I would like to give thanks for the authors and books which bring so much pleasure to our day. Did you know whitefish canâ€™t jump? That may be my favorite book title of all time.