November 26, 2009

The American Holiday Known As Thanksgiving

I never knew that it was the woman who wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb", Sarah Josepha Hale, who campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Or, as the wikipedia elegantly puts it: "She famously campaigned for the creation of the American holiday known as Thanksgiving." I love the stiff prose of wikiworld. Hale was also an advocate for eating the American bird known as turkey. Turkeys are found in the American continent known as North America. Here's your wikipedia history lesson of the day:

Hale is credited as the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States; it had previously been celebrated only in New England. Each state scheduled its own holiday, some as early as October and others as late as January; it was largely unknown in the American South. Her advocacy for the national holiday began in 1846 and lasted 17 years before it was successful. In support of the proposed national holiday, she wrote letters to five Presidents of the United States -- Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln. Her initial letters failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote to Lincoln did convince him to support legislation establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863.
Impressive. What a legacy! Both "Mary Had a Little Lamb" & Thanksgiving? That's like being credited with creating both smiles & kittens. I need to start writing repeated letters to as many presidents as possible to advocate for McGonagall Supper to become official. (McGonagall Supper is a dinner in honor of bad poetry held on September 29th, the day William McGonagall, the English language's worst poet, died. Mark your calendars! Write to your representative!) In the meantime, happy thanksgiving, & I leave you with the subtly secular Walt Whitman quote I read as our prayer before our family's thanksgiving dinner every year:
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,

I know they are very well where they are.

Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road (1892)