Thanksgiving in the United States has been observed on various dates throughout history. The date for Thanksgiving varied from state to state. Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln.
President Lincoln proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to build American unity between the Northern and Southern states. Due, however, to the Civil War (1861-1865) a nationwide Thanksgiving date was not realized until Reconstruction in the 1870s.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.
Thanksgiving, as a national holiday, is indeed a day to “give thanks” for the blessings family, food, and freedom.
Perhaps most importantly, for all of us today, Thanksgiving is day to overlook our festering religious and political polarization, forget our differences, and truly realize that e pluribus unum is not an historic ideal but a contemporary life necessity. Giving thanks is building bridges.
We need a lot of bridges in 2015. Not just in our United States but across the globe. And we are all gifted and called to be bridge-builders.
As we say in the great Christian thanksgiving prayer, the Eucharist, “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God…..”