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THANKSGIVING DAY
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[ Also see Autumn Harvest Harvest Home Holidays Pumpkins Thankfulness ]

The Thanksgiving need bring us no special boasting that we live to-day, because such boasting reproaches that yesterday to which Christ lived, and in which the earth is all marked with the footsteps of the mighty. The day need bring no laments that we are poor or full of toil, for the words "poor" and "rich" play only a small part in the vast history of true happiness; no laments that we cannot live a hundred years from the present, for each century has the same God and the same personal questions, just as it has the same sunshine. The one task and joy of each mortal, in whatever age or land, is to weave a song out of his own days and years, and, in any time or condition, to breathe a prayer in the name of his soul. The long and rich procession of humanity seen as filing over the great plains of the past--a procession headed by such beings as Jesus Christ--carrying banners of love, and chanting, as they march, the hymns of immortality, gives assurance that it is an amazing event for us to be carried through these many centuries in the great chariot of existence, and reason enough for our hymn and prayer of thanksgiving to the God of our life.
      - Unattributed Author

Notwithstanding all their trials and hardships, these brave founders of a great and glorious race had so much to be thankful for that they had to appoint "an especial day on which to give especial thanks for all their mercies." So they agreed among themselves that, since their prudence and forethought had been so wonderfully blessed of God, they would send out four men hunting, that they might rejoice together in a special manner after the fruit of their labors had been gathered. According to the historian, barley and Indian corn were their only crops; the "pease were not worth gathering; for, as we feared, they were too late sown." This was under the good Governor Bradford. The four men who went hunting brought in as much game as served the company for a week. The recreations of the day consisted of the exercise of their arms, Massasoit, the Indian chief, and ninety of his men, coming among them for three days, during which they were entertained and feasted by the colonists, the Indians killing and bringing to the feast five deer. This was in 1621, and was the beginning of Thanksgiving day in America.
      - Unattributed Author,
        American Agriculturist,
        second part of Thanksgiving Day quotation, see "To recall . . ."

To recall the circumstances of the first day of thanksgiving may serve to remind us of how much more we have to be thankful for than had those early Pilgrims. History tells us that of the one hundred and two emigrants that landed on the bleak and rocky coast of Cape Cod Bay in the winter of 1620, almost half died before the following winter fairly set in. To-day, in our comfortable country and city homes, we cannot even imagine the sufferings of the survivors, both from destitution and the inclement weather, which they were not prepared, either as to clothes or habitations, to brave. The most of the brave people were not inured to hardships; among them were delicately nurtured men and women. They staked and laid out two rows of huts for the nineteen families that composed the colony; but within the first year they had to make seven times more graves for the dead than houses for the living.
      - Unattributed Author,
        American Agriculturist,
        first part of Thanksgiving Day quotation, see "Notwithstanding all . . ."

If Thanksgiving would but be observed in a becoming spirit, how much would it accomplish in the way of purifying and strengthening the sentiment of nationality, which was fostered by ancestral memories, cemented by the blood of our fathers, and wrought into the structure of our continent by the hand of God, in the flow of rivers, the clasp of lakes and ridges, and the embracing arm of an unbroken seaboard! "The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad." If there is one peril more than another which threatens our prosperity it is that indifference to our mercies which might provoke God to withdraw them. May God incline us more and more to that unambitious, unselfish, contented, cheerful, thankful temper which is at once a medicine and a feast, an ornament and a protection.
      - William Adams

This is Thanksgiving day. Its observance ought to be in the best sense religious. And it might be well to this end to review the feelings and emotions with which we approach it. Much of our thankfulness may be purely selfish. There are some with whom things have gone well this year. The family circle has remained unbroken. No wasting sickness has come into the home. Prosperity has left its blessings. The table is laden with plenty. There is meat in the larder and grain in the storehouse. Because of these things they imagine they are grateful; but such gratitude is of the essence of selfishness. It is dependent upon exterior conditions. It finds its basis in circumstances. It draws its inspiration from clear skies and smooth sailing, and hence it is fitful and evanescent as the alternations of sunlight and shadow. If these conditions of personal comfort and prosperity are in themselves the ground of thankfulness, where in the hour of adversity shall we find occasion for rejoicing? The record of the past has its graver side. There have been pain and losses and disappointments and bereavements and heartaches. Where in these things is there reason and ground for gratitude? . . . [J]ust here is the point of stumbling with many an earnest soul. We find in the bitter chill of adversity the true test of our gratitude. And that is true gratitude which, triumphing over conditions merely physical and external, finds its ground of thankfulness in God Himself. It is independent of circumstances. It goes beneath the surface of life, whether sad or joyous, and
      - Henry Austin

Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
      - Bible, Psalms (ch. CL, v. 6)

Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
      - Bible, Psalms (ch. CVII, v. 21)

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for His mercy endureth forever.
      - Bible, Psalms (ch. CXXXVI, v. 1)

Let us give thanks to God upon Thanksgiving Day. Nature is beautiful and fellowmen are dear, and duty is close beside us, and God is over us and in us. We want to trust Him with a fuller trust, and so at last to come to that high life where we shall "be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our request be made known unto God"; for that, and that alone, is peace.
      - Phillips Brooks

No, there is nothing that should hinder the praises of God's sons and daughters on Thanksgiving Day. We are much too prone to sadness; not overserious, but overmelancholy. In the Talmud we are told of a stringed instrument that hung over King David's bed in such a position that when the pleasant north winds blew in the night it sounded sweetly of itself; "and he forthwith arose and occupied himself with the law until he saw the pillars of the dawn." Our lives are environed with God's goodness. We sleep in the midst of untouched harps of blessing. Let us arise and sweep their strings on this Thanksgiving Day.
      - David James Burrell

Let all pleasures be more pleasant, let all grief with help be served,
  Let all blessings praise their sources, with the thanks that are deserved!
    Every spirit should look heavenward, every heart should tribute pay,
      To the Soul of souls that treats us to the Grand Old Day.
      - Will Carleton

We thank Thee, O Father, for all that is bright--
  The gleam of the day and the stars of the night,
    The flowers of our youth and the fruits of our prime,
      And the blessings that march down the pathway of time.
        We thank Thee, Father, for all that is drear--
          The sob of the tempest, the flow of the tear;
            For never in blindness, and never in vain,
              Thy mercy permitted a sorrow or pain.
                We thank Thee, O Father of all, for the power
                  Of aiding each other in life's darkest hour;
                    The generous heart and the bountiful hand
                      And all the soul-help that sad souls understand.
                        We thank Thee, O Father, for days yet to be;
                          For hopes that our future will call us to Thee.
                            Let all our eternity form, through Thy love,
                              One Thanksgiving Day in the mansions above.
      - Will Carleton

Thanksgiving-day, I fear,
  If one the solemn truth must touch,
    Is celebrated, not so much
      To thank the Lord for blessing o'er,
        As for the sake of getting more!
      - Will Carleton,
        Captain Young's Thanksgiving

One cycle more, with rich fruition crowned,
  Hastes to fulfilment of its perfect round,--
    Great year of wonder, and of vast emprise!--
      For all its gifts, ay, let Thanksgiving rise,
        The hero's prowess--bloodless victory won;
          The martyr's patience, sternest duty done,--
            Yet, loftier paeans still, for war's surcease,--
              For God's best gift,--the precious boon of peace!
                For garnered opulence of flock and field,
                  Joys ever new, revolving seasons yield,--
                    For those bright presences of radiant night,--
                      The garment-hem of Glory Infinite,--
                        Blithe speech of birds, and bloom of sunny bower,
                          Health, home, and love,--the best of earthly dower,--
                            Yet in thy gracious time of strife's release,
                              Thank God, ye people, for His gift of peace.
      - Julia Zitella Cocke

However flowerless the ways
  Of grim November,
    However dull and drear her days,
      We should remember
        One happy time she sets apart
          For royal living,
            A gift to cheer and bless each heart,--
              It is Thanksgiving!
      - Emma C. Dowd

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.
      - Ralph Waldo Emerson

But some may think this is not the time of year for a Feast of Tabernacles, since the summer is gone, and even the fiery of autumn has disappeared. The forests are stripped of their foliage, and the mountains around our valley are bleak and bare. But our Thanksgiving, being more than a month later than the Feast of Tabernacles as kept by the Jews, cannot be observed, as that was, out of doors, in tents and booths that were pitched on all the hills round about Jerusalem. Our festival is not out of doors, but indoors, where we laugh at the winds that blow and the storms that rage without, which do but add to our sense of comfort and security. If some city-bred stranger, whose blood is thin and whose face is pale, should come up among these hills at this season or the year, and straightway begin to shiver as he muffles himself up in his overcoat lined with furs, and chatters between his teeth, "How the wind howls!" we answer, "Let it howl! Little harm can it do us, as we sit before the great open fireplace, and pile on the logs, and hear the flames roar up the chimney!" Indeed, it is the contrast between the wintry scene without and the warmth and glow within that gives a peculiar charm to a Thanksgiving in the country, as it does to Christmas also. And so let us gather round the fire to-night. Do not light the lamp, for there is nothing to stir up old memories like the fire on the hearth, that flashes up in the faces of those we love.
      - Henry Martyn Field

Along the hills that autumn's grace
  Hath lit with sudden tints of flame,
    One comes, with sweet, uplifted face,
      Singing her praises to His name,
        Whose hand the ready blessings heap,
          Whose endless love a world doth keep.
            A spirit of thanksgiving born
              Of grateful people, blessed of God,
                Whose barns He fills with golden corn;
                  Whose level fields of lifeless sod,
                    His sunshine and His fragrant rains,
                      Have quickened into fruitful plains.
                        E'en should the angry clouds uplift
                          Dark faces on the trembling days,
                            The seeming ill is yet God's gift;
                              Out of the shadows lift His praise.
                                Calm as the child who, smiling, hears
                                  The footsteps of advancing years.
      - Mrs. L.B. Hall

Lord, for the erring thought
  Not unto evil wrought:
    Lord, for the wicked will
      Betrayed, and baffled still:
        For the heart from itself kept,
          Our thanksgiving accept.
            For ignorant hopes that were
              Broken to our blind prayer:
                For pain, death, sorrow, sent
                  Unto our chastisement:
                    For all loss of seeming good,
                      Quicken our gratitude.
      - William Dean Howells,
        The Undiscovered Country

And taught by thee the Church prolongs
  Her hymns of high thanksgiving still.
      - John Keble,
        Christian Year--St. Luke the Evangelist
         (st. 18)

"Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
  Lest we forget--lest we forget!
      - Rudyard Kipling

Thanksgiving Day is only our annual time for saying grace at the table of eternal goodness.
      - James M. Ludlow

The blessings we are used to, become so much the habit of our lives that we are apt to take them for granted and to fail to be stirred by them to any positive emotion of thankfulness. There are those who, ever mindful of the unequal measure in which privilege, opportunity and all material goods are distributed in this world, are always consciously grateful for the ordinary, every-day comforts; for food and shelter and decent surroundings and a peaceful life. But most of us, differently constructed, are prone to consider that all we are used to have is ours by a natural right, and that on the whole it is rather a hardship that we cannot contrive to have an ever-increasing share of sugar-plums allotted to us. We that are of that disposition must try at Thanksgiving to come to a fuller appreciation of our more recondite blessings, as well as of those which we accept as matters of course. As Riley puts it in his Thanksgiving poem--
  Let us be thankful, thankful for the prayers
    Whose gracious answers were long, long delayed,
      That they might fall upon us unawares,
        And bless us, as in greater need we prayed.
      - E.C. Martin

It should be the aim of Christian people, in all their keeping of the day, whether in the sacred gladness of the home, in public services in church or Sunday-school, or in festivities of whatever kind, to have the true meaning of Christmas remembered, that the influence of the child Jesus may pervade all the thought of the day. So should it be with Thanksgiving day. To leave God out is to make the day an empty name without meaning. Thanksgiving is nothing if not a glad and reverent lifting of the heart to God in honor and praise for His goodness. As an annual festival it is meant to gather into one day the gratitude of a nation for the favors and mercies of a year. This does not imply that we can put all our thanksgiving for a year into one day. We may not be murmurers for three hundred and sixty-four days, and then atone for our ingratitude by praising and blessing God for one whole day. The normal Christian life is one whose thanksgiving fills every day of the year with song and gladness.
      - J. Corson Miller

No thanksgiving is complete without its generous thought of those who are not so favored as we are. The truly grateful heart always thinks of giving blessing to some other. Says George MacDonald: "When God comes to man, man looks around for his neighbor." Our own Thanksgiving dinner will be sweeter if we have shared it with another household. An unshared meal on this glad day will not bring its best possible blessing.
      - J. Corson Miller


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