As this epic American holiday approached, I first experienced a bit of sadness to be missing the preparations and the atmosphere; however, I quickly realized that I can be just as thankful this side of the ocean. So my my nostalgia turned to thanksgiving and my gratitude has been mounting through the week. In studying Thanksgiving in order to teach my students about it, I learned that days of thanksgiving had been somewhat common among the pilgrims. They were religious events to thank God for His care. History.com writes "Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well."
In my research, I also learned that it was the authoress Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote "Mary had a Little Lamb" (among other things), petitioned to make thanksgiving an official holiday for 36 years. History.com writes "Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to 'commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife' and to 'heal the wounds of the nation.'"
As I reviewed some expressions today with my students on how to express gratitude, I couldn't help but be internally struck by the implied object of thankfulness in the phrases. I'm thankful . . . I appreciate . . . I am grateful . . . To whom? Personally, I am full of thanks to God on this day. As I came into the office this morning, a colleague immediately remarked, "You look so happy today" in a mix of curiosity and surprise. My day continued to bring moments of cheer and this attitude was transferred to my students. My conversations were some of the most pleasant and cheerful that I've yet had. I found my thanksgiving increasing throughout the day as little prayers interspersed themselves amidst my thoughts, and had the words of the following song coursing through my mind. My heart is full with gratitude, and I think that this day, in a foreign land, having had a vegetarian lunch, I have possibly celebrated thanksgiving more sincerely than any other time in my life.
1. For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies; Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise. 2. For the wonder of each hour Of the day and of the night, Hill and vale and tree and flower, Sun and moon, and stars of light; Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise. 4. For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child; Friends on earth and friends above; For all gentle thoughts and mild; Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise. 5. For Thy Church that evermore Lifteth holy hands above, Offering up on every shore Her pure sacrifice of love; Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise. 6. For Thyself, best gift divine, To our race so freely given, For that great, great love of Thine, Peace on earth, and joy in heaven: Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise