There’s something special about the holiday season, wouldn’t you say? So, I’m going to give everyone a break from the fussing and drama of the current political culture and discuss something that almost all Americans agree on and participate in: Christmas and Thanksgiving.
One of the beautiful things about this free country is being able to define and shape our own culture. That’s just what happened with Christmas and Thanksgiving.
In many countries, culture is defined government down, but in the United States, culture is defined people up. I’ll explain.
Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on 1863 and Grant declared Christmas a national holiday on 1870. But this was not because they wanted to “mandate” a holiday. No, the holidays were already being celebrated throughout the country before they became official federal holidays. Many states held their own versions of Thanksgiving and citizens had adopted their own versions of Christmas.
Notice the timing? Both holidays become national holidays during or directly after the Civil War, one of the darkest moments in American history.
So, that means that, directly in the middle of the darkest time in our nation’s history, the government established a day of thanksgiving. Lincoln said:
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. 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, tranquility, and union.”
President Grant, who took the president’s reigns a few years later, also wanted to establish a time of peace and unity for the nation. One source describes it this way:
“Grant, victorious Union Civil War general, emerged from the war with a passion to reunite the nation. If he had become a practitioner of a ‘hard war’ during the four-year-long conflict, as the war reached its climax he grew into an advocate of a ‘soft peace.’ He demonstrated his belief at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox when he offered Robert E. Lee a magnanimous peace.”
In other words, both Lincoln and Grant saw the establishment of these two holidays as a way to bring the nation together after it was almost irrevocably shattered in two. What a critical message for Americans today.
Think of it. During the holiday season, all Americans are experiencing and participating in something together.
I hope and pray that Americans embrace this Christmas season as they never have before, because if there’s ever been a time for Americans to stop and see each other as human, as worth caring for and knowing, it’s now. We need to all pause for a bit and enjoy this season. Let’s not politicize it.
Like the soldiers in WWI who stopped fighting for day, and laughed, chatted and gave gifts to each other on Christmas, Americans need to do the same. We can wish each other a Merry Christmas, decorate our houses and trees, shop frantically for presents, stock up on amazing food, and wish each other the best. And we should be so thankful we can still do so after all this country has been through.
Let’s enjoy this holiday season like it’s our last.
Because, friends, we never know when it will be our last.
The Liberty Belle