Sarah Josepha Hale penned her first letter to President Zachary Taylor in 1846. Thus began her seventeen-year quest to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote letters to Presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchannan, but it was not until war split the nation in half that her letter reached the man it had been destined to impact all along.
Abraham Lincoln made the official proclamation in 1863: Thanksgiving would be celebrated every fourth Thursday in November as a national day of
"Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."
Lincoln could not have foreseen everything our country would become, but between Halloween and Christmas he created a bridge of gratitude that would transition us into the Christmas season with a thankful attitude. While the war did not end for two more years, the president of a broken country chose to offer thanks before salvation came. While brothers fought brothers and families were ripped apart from painful politics, he saw a need to be thankful.
Even as the nation he loved so dearly seemed broken beyond repair, he chose to be grateful.
And so Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. I love that we celebrate in that order, choosing to see Christmas through the lens of gratitude. Much like pilgrims and Native Americans sat down to forge bonds of brotherhood, so shepherds and kings came together to kneel at the bed of a newborn Child.
And so Thanksgiving and Christmas comingle, each enhancing the other, allowing us to bask in the splendid dance of Gratitude and Grace.