Lincoln and Thanksgiving: The Origin of an American Holiday

The very first Thanksgiving happened almost 400 years ago – long before the nation was born. How did it evolve into America’s quintessential national holiday? Credit largely goes to two people – one, a name you know; the other, you’ve probably never heard – but should. Melanie Kirkpatrick, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, gives us the run-down on how a harvest party between Pilgrims and Indians became our oldest national tradition. Donate today to PragerU! Get PragerU bonus content for free! Download Pragerpedia on your iPhone or Android! Thousands of sources and facts at your fingertips. iPhone: Android: Join Prager United to get new swag every quarter, exclusive early access to our videos, and an annual TownHall phone call with Dennis Prager! Join PragerU's text list to have these videos, free merchandise giveaways and breaking announcements sent directly to your phone! Do you shop on Amazon? Click and a percentage of every Amazon purchase will be donated to PragerU. Same great products. Same low price. Shopping made meaningful. VISIT PragerU! FOLLOW us! Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: PragerU is on Snapchat! JOIN PragerFORCE! For Students: JOIN our Educators Network! Script: In Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1621, 53 men, women and children celebrated their first harvest in the New World. The great Indian chief, Massasoit, brought 90 of his men to the three-day party. From all reports, a good time was had by all. How did this event, which happened almost 400 years ago, become a part of the American story and our oldest national tradition? Credit goes to many people, but two stand out. One you know, and one you should know: Abraham Lincoln and Sarah Josepha Hale. More on both in a moment. As a religious people, Americans have always had a keen sense they have been blessed by Providence. The pilgrims certainly felt this, and so did subsequent generations, including George Washington. Washington was the first president to declare a national day of public thanksgiving and praise. But it wasn’t until the Civil War that the idea of a national Day of Thanksgiving fully took hold. In the autumn of 1863—at the height of the Civil War, when Americans were bitterly divided—Abraham Lincoln nevertheless called for a day of national thanksgiving. Lincoln began his proclamation this way: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” It was an extraordinary way to characterize 1863—the bloodiest year of the war. But even “in the midst of a civil war of unequaled severity and magnitude,” Lincoln continued, the nation had much to be thankful for and much to look forward to. The day was coming when America would again be united and experience, as Lincoln put it, “a large increase of freedom.” It was a profoundly hopeful message, reminding Americans of their nation's capacity for renewal. Lincoln’s decision to call for a national Thanksgiving came at the urging of a far-sighted and persistent magazine editor who believed such a celebration would have a “deep moral influence” on the American character. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale. More than any single person, she is the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving today. By the 1840s, many states had established an annual day of thanksgiving, but the date varied widely from state to state. Hale saw the value of a day in which the entire nation celebrated as one. For two decades, she conducted a campaign to consolidate public support for her idea. As the influential editor of one of the most popular periodicals of the 19th century, year after year she wrote columns making the case for the holiday; she published fiction and poems with a Thanksgiving Day theme; and she offered her readers recipes for traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as roast turkey and pumpkin pie. And, by the way, she also wrote the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” For the complete script, visit

100+ Comments:

Fisher Man
Fisher Man:
I'm thankful every day that Hillary isn't president.
Random Person
Random Person:
I'm not American but I like thanksgiving.
Happy early Thanksgiving to everyone 🍁
Trevor The Trilby
Trevor The Trilby:
I like how people are offended about a Holiday they have no connection to or knowledge about
I am thankful for:
My good children
My dog
A roof overhead
Food on the table
A beautiful park right outside my door
The stars in the night sky
A decent vehicle
A job
Living in America
All of God's blessings, grace, and mercy.
What?! A female editor in the 1840’s?! Feminism says that didn’t happen! 😆
Christa Lima
Christa Lima:
I would ask my kids every year before we began eating to say something they were thankful for, most years they rolled their eyes, but I'd volunteer to go first & soon they could name something. I never really knew why I'd done that because that's not how I'd been taught, but I'm grateful I insisted on it, today they do find themselves grateful for what they have, not resentful for what they don't have. There's a huge difference when you have an attitude of gratitude.
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln:
Yet another quality video from PragerU.
Levi Paladin
Levi Paladin:
I'm thankful to be an American: it's the closest thing to paradise on Earth. I'm always well-fed, well clothed, well entertained and have a roof over my head. God has truly blessed us because of the prayers and works of the Americans that have gone before us...

 ...but I also know that every valley will be exulted and every mountain laid low.

 _"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits."_
Felipe Vagli F. de Souza
Felipe Vagli F. de Souza:
Great Nation, the U.S.A. You have my admiration.
Mic O
Mic O:
I'm not American but am a legal resident and I'm thankful for this Great Country and the Great American spirit and People.
Ps.. snowflakes not so much...
Aaron Hurwitz
Aaron Hurwitz:
She missed out one vitally important word: GOD. In Lincoln's 1863 letter, between the healthy skies and civil war sentences, Lincoln writes, "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." He continues, "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...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." To leave out whom we're thanking in her video was a reprehensible error.
When she mentioned roast turkey and pumpkin pie, I got hungry. lol
Aaron Pangallo
Aaron Pangallo:
It’s too bad the SJW’s are trying to destroy this awesome holiday.
Your Alpha Dude
Your Alpha Dude:
Hi if you’re reading this. Please remember you’re strong and I hope you are having a blessed day!

From a small American youtuber!
Marxism destroys everything. They can even turn a holiday built on the celebration of Unity and thanks into something vile and demonized.
Karan Dsouza
Karan Dsouza:
I am thankful for USA being the greatest country in the world and I pray to God that the coming generations keep it that way.
Adam Latosiński
Adam Latosiński:
Will Witt could go question people for what they are thankful to America.
Caleb Weiberg
Caleb Weiberg:
Too bad all the businesses had to stick their noses into it and create black friday, where people trample each other trying to buy things.
Frank Castle
Frank Castle:
I am thankfull for guns 🔫💀
Funny how left leaning Presidents like Taylor, Fillmore and Pierce didn't want to acknowledge Sarah Josepha Hale's idea of Thanksgiving until a boss like Abraham Lincoln came along and made it happen. Then, the wannabe, antifa SJW John Wilkes Booth felt as though he was entitled to end it all. Much like the Left today. In other words: nothing's changed.
American Paisa
American Paisa:
Thanksgiving? Oh you mean Black Friday. Which now starts on a Thursday. It use to be called Thanksgiving but the Globalist have turned the national holiday into a day of shopping with strangers. Instead of spending the day with family.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone - even NPC's.
Whenever someone tries to ruin Thanksgiving with a political discussion at the dinner table, just tell them to be thankful that they can have a different point of view. Then tell them that you're thankful that you have the right not to talk about it.
I give thanks every day living in the greatest country in the world.
Mr. Fluffypants
Mr. Fluffypants:
My dudes. If you actually read the 1863 proclamation, President Lincoln makes sure thst God takes center stage. God's healing, God's provision, God's Grace. For your guys at PragerU to gloss over that is quite disappointing. Good video otherwise, very informative.
Johnny Appleseed
Johnny Appleseed:
I am most thankful this year for so many brothers & sisters here in America and around the world boldly fighting the evils of the only universal enemies of humanity, Leftism and Islam
Jorge Lanas
Jorge Lanas:
Actually the origin came from the Spanish. The first one was in Texas in 1542 and then there was another more famous one in St. Augustine Florida in 1565.
The Arabic Facilitator
The Arabic Facilitator:
Happy Thanksgiving from the Middle East to America and Americans, It is a great occasion to be grateful. I am grateful for many things that happened to me. First of all, I knew the Creator and he guided me, I perceived him and felt him. Since then, I have been more peaceful, I have had a whole new vision of life, I see life from a new perspective. I have felt love to all creatures. He opened my eyes to things I did not see before. I am grateful for the blessing Allah bestowed on me. I became free in the spirit, where ever I go, I am free. I am grateful to my friends all over the world and particularly in the USA, those who stood next to me when I needed support. I will be grateful to them for the rest of my life. From the bottom of my heart, Thanks to Allah and to America.
I dedicate this song to America and Americans, YOU ARE THE WIND BENEATH MY WINGS
L. West
L. West:
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Well presented.
I’m giving thanks to Prager U for this video
Gratitude is the mother of happiness.
Before 1621, the Pilgrims worked the land and shared equally the food that it produced. The industrious were fed no better than the lazy, and the incentive to work was very limited. Food shortages occurred. In 1621, the economy was changed to one of personal earnings: you grow it, you own it. With well-motivated hard-working Pilgrims this time, the harvest was much bigger, erasing worry about famine. They had a feast and gave thanks. (Source: _Access to Energy,_ see for information about that publication.) We can give thanks too, for the first known experiment on socialism in the future USA (and knowing that it failed).
Julio Cordero
Julio Cordero:
God bless you
GX Gx:
4 a.m... seriously?
A good thing to read at the table before everyone eats (and after the blessing on the food) is President Lincoln's proclamation on Thanksgiving. It makes the food taste better.
Atharva Avhad
Atharva Avhad:
God bless America 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
Internet Anonymity
Internet Anonymity:
Every year, we gather around the dinner table to speculate how the liberals will try and ruin the country in the coming year. God bless 'merica!
Fanaddicts of Film
Fanaddicts of Film:
Sarah Josepha Hale. One heart, and one voice.
At the table, leftists always get offended and leave first. More turkey for me!!
Chalres Kirkland
Chalres Kirkland:
Man, in all of its frailties, discombobulation, and extreme thinking and actions, may have torn us apart, yet the one true Almighty God, that brought this country into existence, through men and women of strong faith, will bring it BACK TOGETHER ONCE AGAIN.
We have so much to be thankful for, despite the political and cultural divide.
Arbitrary Renaissance
Arbitrary Renaissance:
"Washington was the first president to declare a national day of public thanksgiving and praise."

That would be impressive if he wasn't ... y'know, the first president.
Juan Manuel Penaloza
Juan Manuel Penaloza:
I'm thankful just to be alive...
I crashed my Celica and currently in the process of fixing it.
Ronald JG
Ronald JG:
Psalm 136:1 (KJV)
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
The Movie Wolf
The Movie Wolf:
The U.S flag is the country’s flag. The Confederate flag is southern pride flag
Thank you George Washington!
Xiphias Gladius
Xiphias Gladius:
PragerU: When you want to believe that your third grade history class was the whole story.

And they say liberals are coddled...
Rolf Anderson
Rolf Anderson:
CORRECTION: “Ask everyone to spend a minute to say what they are grateful TO GOD for.”
Oh, but why did she choose that date? She was not a person of God. Her intent?

Dig deeper Prager U
jessica benitez
jessica benitez:
And yet we have allowed retailers to slowly ruin and deteriorate the values of this wonderful National Holiday and tradition to be replaced with empty materialistic values and disregard for others that must work on Thanksgiving and not get to spend the day with their loved ones. I, for one Will NOT shop, go to the movies, a restaurant or any other form of entertainment on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Christmas !!! I believe that I can find 362 - 363 other days in the year to entertain myself. Happy Thanksgiving everyone !!
"If Lincoln could focus on these blessings in the middle of the Civil War, we should certainly be able to do so today." Unfortunately, I can't see our current president doing this, seeing how divisiveness is his main political strategy.
Paul Miller
Paul Miller:
A greatfull person is a peaceful person. I'm greatfull for all the little things and every now and then something Great happens. I Wonder why?
Siddharth Chowdary Vunnam
Siddharth Chowdary Vunnam:
I'm thankful to Melanie Kirkpatrick and PragerU for making this great video. 🙂
Letty Guerra
Letty Guerra:
Since its Thanksgiving week I want to give a Big Thank You to Dennis Prager, and the Prager University team. 😍🤗👍
"After all, if we don’t give thanks, what’s the point of Thanksgiving?" Spending time with the people you care about, always a decent reason to celebrate. Doesn't require people to 'give thanks' to be a good day.
Abe Froman
Abe Froman:
the 170 thumbs down should be thankful they're not facing me....
The Movie Wolf
The Movie Wolf:
Thanksgiving was peaceful and a holiday about spending time with family.

Then after the first thanksgiving the Indian king Philip attacked and the pilgrims won. So liberals don’t like America they hate thanksgiving.
Martin W
Martin W:
Gratitude and Hope.
Seems worth celebrating.
lumduan dee
lumduan dee:
"MASS A SOI IT" That is how Massasoit is pronounced.
J. C.
J. C.:
God bless you, Ms. Kirkpatrick, and our country. Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll.
Camilo Castelo
Camilo Castelo:
This is a very beautiful story.
Salut from Brazil.
Mathias Laurence
Mathias Laurence:
Not again PragerU.
Didn't we have something like that last year?
Piotr Tarasov
Piotr Tarasov:
What a positive message! How nice of you, PragerU.
Cheeto Bandido
Cheeto Bandido:
Do Native Americans celebrate
The Left told me Elizabeth Warren's ancestor invented Thanksgiving to shame the white man
supergato chupacabras
supergato chupacabras:
Happy Thanksgiving America.
I love The Suiwt Potatos whit marshmallows on tap.
Thanks to President Lincoln and Josepha.
What a great message. Thank you to all who made this video possible.
Atsu Kana
Atsu Kana:
If you were to ask the people behind Walmart ads they would not be able to tell you what Thanksgiving is. I was getting Christmas ads in June.
Oscar S. Grant
Oscar S. Grant:
God bless the name of Lincoln! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
I know a lot of people who hate Sarah Hale.
Needless to say, those people are very delicious. ;P
St Myles
St Myles:
God Bless America and Thank you God for this Great Nation.
You left out SQUANTO!
The US ain't the freest country in the world.
Lincoln was NOT the President of the Confederacy. I really like Prager but this is not right.
Mystix Phil
Mystix Phil:
Thanksgiving should never be taken away. It's a true American holiday.
Reach Victoria
Reach Victoria:
Bravo. Excellent video and sadly a topic this nation has forgotten about.
joseph tzintzun
joseph tzintzun:
Im thankful for Prager U. And the fireside chats. Thank you Dennis and Otto.
The Crusader Historian
The Crusader Historian:
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! and thank you for the video!
Connor Compton
Connor Compton:
Dear Melanie Kirkpatrick

Are you aware of Squanto? When you were talking about the origins of Thanksgiving at the beginning of the video you seem to leave an him out.

The reason why Squanto was important was that he helped translate between the Pilgrims(who were actually called Separatists) and Wampanoag tribe.

If you are wondering about the reason why the Pilgrims were called Separatists is because they illegally split from the Church of England.

Why is it when mention an historical figure the person tends to be a Social/Economic Conservative?

The reason I ask this question is because nearly every historical figure that has been mentioned in Prageru has been a Social/Economic conservative.

Have you considered mentioning historical figures on the other side of the spectrum?

Here are some links.


Connor Compton


I did find the proclamation that George Washington made. For more information click on the link above.
Thomas Gabriel White
Thomas Gabriel White:
The name Sarah Josepha Hale sounds familiar, I probably know it from the poems.
Joyful Dude
Joyful Dude:
I’m thankful for Christ blessing America with Trump, my family, the apartment I live in and I am also thankful for the amount of pure freedom I have.

Have a wonderful day everyone!!
fuaad Mohamoud
fuaad Mohamoud:
Lincoln was an Authoritarian. Don't conflate his name with Freedom.
Joseph Pasquale
Joseph Pasquale:
I am thankful for president Trump
Foul! Lincoln was positioned on the confederate side. Bad drawing. Lincoln is a Union Republican.
Okay. I'm gonna go to Wawa, buy some snacks, and watch the Thanks Giving Day Parade first thing in the morning
Mohamad Faridi
Mohamad Faridi:
Thank you America! God bless the United States of America.
Art Burg.
Art Burg.:
It's all in the HEART ....
...some of US have it, some of us don't.

√ just sayin'
Kelly Williamson
Kelly Williamson:
Well Done, non biased and truthful !   Peace to All out there !
George Cataloni
George Cataloni:
Massasoit wasn't French lol. You're supposed to pronounce the T.
Thanks Giving is a great Holiday accept people should not be eating Turkeys !!!
Republican and Democratic, Right, or Left, God bless you all.
Shadilay McKek
Shadilay McKek:
I'm thankful for our president, Mr. Donald J Trump!!
Peace Love
Peace Love:
Thank you for your explanation of Thanksgiving! This is a great teaching tool. Happy Thanksgiving! 🍁🦃🍽
Joe Tapley
Joe Tapley:
Thata Edward Scissor Handsa, he-a maka me cry.
John Guill
John Guill:
Good video, I'm just tired of people implying that the "First" Thanksgiving happened in Plymouth, Mass and not the Berkley Plantation in Virginia.
Jordan Munk
Jordan Munk:
176 buffoons have downvoted thus far... add a 7 in there and I say... thank you fools for reminding me of 1776!
Johnny Flash
Johnny Flash:
And if someone brings politics into it kick them out.
Green Man
Green Man:
I'm thankful I wasn't alive in the US or CS when lincoln was dictator.
Wise Walk
Wise Walk:
Awesome video PragerU!! If anyone is interested, I have a Thanksgiving countdown stream running now until 11/22/2018.
Shohan Tutorial
Shohan Tutorial:
Sadly peace didnt last long after thangsgiving

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