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:

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.
Fisher Man
Fisher Man:
I'm thankful every day that Hillary isn't president.
Trevor The Trilby
Trevor The Trilby:
I like how people are offended about a Holiday they have no connection to or knowledge about
Random Person
Random Person:
I'm not American but I like thanksgiving.
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.
What?! A female editor in the 1840’s?! Feminism says that didn’t happen! 😆
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...
Happy early Thanksgiving to everyone 🍁
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."_
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.
Ariel Vagus
Ariel Vagus:
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!
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln:
Yet another quality video from PragerU.
Aaron Pangallo
Aaron Pangallo:
It’s too bad the SJW’s are trying to destroy this awesome holiday.
When she mentioned roast turkey and pumpkin pie, I got hungry. lol
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.
Felipe Vagli F. de Souza
Felipe Vagli F. de Souza:
Great Nation, the U.S.A. You have my admiration.
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.
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.
Adam Latosiński
Adam Latosiński:
Will Witt could go question people for what they are thankful to America.
Marxism destroys everything. They can even turn a holiday built on the celebration of Unity and thanks into something vile and demonized.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone - even NPC's.
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.
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
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.
I give thanks every day living in the greatest country in the world.
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.
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.
Atharva Avhad
Atharva Avhad:
God bless America 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
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).
"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.
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.
Gratitude is the mother of happiness.
Julio Cordero
Julio Cordero:
God bless you
Rolf Anderson
Rolf Anderson:
CORRECTION: “Ask everyone to spend a minute to say what they are grateful TO GOD for.”
The U.S flag is the country’s flag. The Confederate flag is southern pride flag
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 !!
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!
Thank you George Washington!
Zane Scott
Zane Scott:
This is honestly one of the most wholesome things ive ever watched.
GX Gx:
4 a.m... seriously?
"celebrate thanksgiving with one heart & one voice"

"focus on the blessings of being americans on the prosperity, security, & freedom we enjoy."

1. what one heart & what one voice?

2. who is "we?"
lumduan dee
lumduan dee:
"MASS A SOI IT" That is how Massasoit is pronounced.
Well presented.
I’m giving thanks to Prager U for this video
Frank Castle
Frank Castle:
I am thankfull for guns 🔫💀
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.
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?
Shohan Tutorial
Shohan Tutorial:
Sadly peace didnt last long after thangsgiving
To everyone it may apply, I hope you‘ll have a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones!
The Left told me Elizabeth Warren's ancestor invented Thanksgiving to shame the white man
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.
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.
I’m Welsh-Japanese, so whenever my American and Canadian friends brought up Thanksgiving, I had little idea what they were talking about. This was an interesting video. Thanks, PragerU :)
Letty Guerra
Letty Guerra:
Since its Thanksgiving week I want to give a Big Thank You to Dennis Prager, and the Prager University team. 😍🤗👍
Fanaddicts of Film
Fanaddicts of Film:
Sarah Josepha Hale. One heart, and one voice.
Wise Walk
Wise Walk:
Awesome video PragerU!! If anyone is interested, I have a Thanksgiving countdown stream running now until 11/22/2018.
Carlos A
Carlos A:
Thanksgivings deep historic meaning starts with the The first Thanksgiving meal in 1565 in St. Augustine that was shared between Spanish settlers and the native Timucua Indians: salted pork, garbanzo beans, ship’s bread and red wine. Then 60 years later with the British Puritan settlers in New England.
I love the richness of our American history and how we celebrate our unity as a nation and our faith in God. So remember it’s fair to roast a turkey or a Pig. Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃🐖. If your interested in reading more about this see my link
Oh, but why did she choose that date? She was not a person of God. Her intent?

Dig deeper Prager U
Justin Curry
Justin Curry:
I'm thankful that there are still people who can have their differences and live in harmony with each other.
At the table, leftists always get offended and leave first. More turkey for me!!
Ronald JG
Ronald JG:
Psalm 136:1 (KJV)
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Irvin Alberto
Irvin Alberto:
God bless our beautiful country! The United States!
Green Man
Green Man:
I'm thankful I wasn't alive in the US or CS when lincoln was dictator.
SKPjoe Coursegold
SKPjoe Coursegold:
i like the 50 different days of giving thanks, 50 great days, 50 days of gluttony, visiting 50 different states, 50 days of, win, win, win.
“Freest country in the world” - I LOLed so hard :D
Brian Delaney
Brian Delaney:
This reminded me: When I was a student abroad in London for a semester living with a family years ago, I got to go with them to Wales to visit their mother and grandmother at her farm. She knew I was visiting, so she prepared an American Thanksgiving dinner feast complete with turkey and all the fixings, and even apple pie for dessert. It was delicious, and gave a homesick student a taste of back home. While many in England my age were not that friendly to Americans, she graciously remembered what our nation did for hers during the great war. I was honored to be the American she personally thanked, when I did nothing to deserve it. God bless you, Mrs. James: I will never forget your Thanksgiving meal.
Bob Baghead
Bob Baghead:
I'm going as Lincoln for Thanksgiving. Here we go. Also I heard honest Abe was Afro American, just like me.
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.
You left out SQUANTO!
Every time I'm watching another video, and a PragerU video plays as an add, I watch the entire thing.
The Crusader Historian
The Crusader Historian:
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! and thank you for the video!
“And that’s what thanksgiving is about Charlie Brown”. All joking a side excellent video
Brandon May
Brandon May:
The elastic waistband industry is thankful for Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and may God bless you all :)
Alaska Jean
Alaska Jean:
Thanksgiving= a nightmare oncoming for the natives.
What a great message. Thank you to all who made this video possible.
Peace Love
Peace Love:
Thank you for your explanation of Thanksgiving! This is a great teaching tool. Happy Thanksgiving! 🍁🦃🍽
Finding this Youtube Channel is definitely on my list of things I'm thankful for.
what is the point of "thanksgiving?"
J. C.
J. C.:
God bless you, Ms. Kirkpatrick, and our country. Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll.
pony centaur
pony centaur:
5:10 You mean thanks giving isnt about football, beer and food?!
kidding =)
Martin W
Martin W:
Gratitude and Hope.
Seems worth celebrating.
Tea Burn
Tea Burn:
I'm thankful for being alive because I was an accident.
El Desdichado
El Desdichado:
Never heard Massasoit's name pronounced en Français like that . . .
skysthe limitvideos
skysthe limitvideos:
This is the kind of PragerU video I can get behind. Preaching unity and real understanding, happy thanksgiving 🦃
Rev. Stephen A. Cakouros
Rev. Stephen A. Cakouros:
I sent this Thanksgiving note to my readers----I read an interesting article today. The tease line to get you to open the article stated that a certain a billionaire [Oprah Winfrey] has a formula she follows when she opens her eyes every morning. We learn that the first words out of her mouth without fail are “Thank You.” But we do not learn about who she might be talking to; is it the maid who wakes her and serves her breakfast in bed on the best Lenox?

I looked carefully thru this Oh so politically correct piece to find one mention of God. There was none. Other well knowns were said to be thankful too but they also fail to mention God, or if they wanted to mention the true source of all our benefits what they wanted to say hit the copy floor.

The mental gymnastics used to avoid any mention of the Deity in this insipid piece made me think it was ghost written by Olympian Nadia Comaneci. For certain the writer does not understand the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Of course we should all feel grateful for what is ours. But Thanksgiving is something that requires a sense of divine providence. And so we read in scripture,

“Enter into his gates with Thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” [Psalm 100:4]

By all means say Thank You. But when saying thank you don’t forget to look up to God.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Yankee Steve
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!
Lee Deville
Lee Deville:
I’m thankful for our brave military !!!
HS Grain
HS Grain:
I am thankful for being born in this great nation (1955), thankful for the opportunities, the people and its freedom. God bless America!!!!
For a holiday that is usually assosiated with having a religious background, I give PragerU credit for not really bringing that part up. Kudos to you!
Im European and live in the EU, but in head and heart I am American.
My favorite American holiday is Independence Day, and as a close second is Thanksgiving.

Many people dont realize it but Thanksgiving is the celebration of the failure of socialism in the US.
Heidi Kleindienst
Heidi Kleindienst:
Thanksgiving will be shunned by the mainstream left within 20 years, mark my words.
Nilton Domi
Nilton Domi:
Thank you Prague U. Share the truth and fight for the evil thought and deeds.
St Myles
St Myles:
God Bless America and Thank you God for this Great Nation.
T a r a s o v
T a r a s o v:
What a positive message! How nice of you, PragerU.
Siddharth Chowdary Vunnam
Siddharth Chowdary Vunnam:
I'm thankful to Melanie Kirkpatrick and PragerU for making this great video. 🙂

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