“Wherever, throughout the earth, there is such a thing as a formal harvest, there also appears an inclination to mark it with a festive celebration. The wonder, the gratitude, the piety felt towards the great Author of nature, when it is brought before us that, once more, as it has ever been, the ripening of a few varieties of grass has furnished food for earth's teeming millions, insure that there should everywhere be some sort of feast of ingathering. In England, this festival passes generally under the endeared name of Harvest-Home.” ~ Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869
The traditional date of harvest home celebrations actually fell at the end of September. Chambers marks it as Sept. 24 in The Book of Days. But For Americans, our season of gratitude is more associated with the month of November (my birthday month!).
November 11 is a special day to thank our military veterans, for example, and, as my readers outside the US might be interested to know, on the fourth Thursday of November every year, we roll the ancient autumn harvest celebration in with a national day of gratitude for our country.
It was not always a national holiday, however. During his first presidential term, George Washington announced a solemn day of prayer and thanksgiving for the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War and the founding of America, but it was not until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency that Thanksgiving was made official, following the Union army’s victory at the horrible Battle of Gettysburg, right here in my home state of Pennsylvania.
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