November 19, 2012

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old  pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.            

---O. Henry

I have always loved Thanksgiving.  When I still lived near my family in South Dakota my husband and I welcomed my parents, my siblings and their families, their in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends to our home.  We'd borrow extra banquet tables and folding chairs from the church and set up 'children's tables' in the family room.  We still use the turkey napkin holders my children made so many years ago--it's part and parcel of all the lovely traditions that families develop over the years.  Now that my son is married, he and his wife are starting new traditions that involve both our family and her family, a beautiful blending of people who come together to celebrate life and love and the union of our children.  

Perhaps because my ancestors were Pilgrims the day has always held a special meaning for me, and I have tried through the years to incorporate as much history as possible, along with the mashed potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pies.  I serve George Washington's ragout of onions and Thomas Jefferson's special apple pudding.  After the movie I saw this weekend, I'm thinking I need to find a recipe that Abe Lincoln would have enjoyed to add to the menu.  My husband and I watched one of the world's finest actors, Daniel Day Lewis, become Abraham Lincoln in an Oscar-worthy performance.  The movies centers on the last four months of the Civil War, as Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Seward, fight to bring the 13th Amendment, the Abolition of Slavery, to a vote in Congress.  It is a stirring and emotional movie, and I loved every minute of it.  Did you know Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving in 1863?  So today I leave you with his proclamation, hoping that all of us can join together in a spirit of 'peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.'

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. 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. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. 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 dwelleth 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, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil 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.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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