One holiday in the USA that I grew up with and still celebrate in my heart is the 4th Thursday of November, Thanksgiving Day. Succulent aromas of turkey roasting in the oven, stuffed with my Mom’s traditional breadcrust dressing, of apple, raisin, pumpkin, mincemeat, and cinnamon pies cooling on the window sill of the kitchen, of baked potatoes, both white and sweet, and several kinds of veggies in various stages of preparation, a platter piled high with sweet corn on the cob, filled our home and made our mouths water in anticipation of the coming family feast!

As we gathered around the table, we held hands and thanked the Lord for the blessings received during the year, for the abundant harvest, and for the gift of family and friends. Thanksgiving was a time of giving thanks!

Although family gatherings are held here in the Philippines, there does not seem to be one devoted to family and giving thanks for the year’s blessings. I would like to share with you just how this holiday came about.

It was in the middle of the American Civil War, in the year 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November.

“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 his proclamation, Lincoln cites that despite being in the midst of a civil war of unequalled severity, many blessings have been realized: the country’s growth had not been arrested, farming, mining and other industries were yielding even more abundantly than before the war, and people throughout the Union were rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, of the freedom they were experiencing in the New World.

Lincoln continued: “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 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, tranquility and Union..” Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

As I read this, I am struck by the similarities in situation between those in the USA in 1863 and those that our country, the Philippines, is now undergoing and the need for continuing prayers 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, tranquility and Union’ (or national oneness of purpose, national harmony). This seems to point out that Filipinos need to observe and celebrate a similar annual Day of Thanksgiving. Or better yet, make everyday a Thanksgiving Day!

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