10 Ways The History Of Thanksgiving Is Nothing Like You Imagined

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3. Lincoln Wanted It To Be A Day Of Humiliation And Fasting

Photo credit: Mathew Brady

Turkey and gratitude had nothing to do with Lincoln’s original vision for Thanksgiving. In 1861, before he read Hale’s letter, he tried making his own brand-new festival to bring the country together. But he didn’t want people to give thanks and eat food. He wanted it to be—in his own words—a day of “public humiliation, prayer and fasting.”[8]

The day would be packed with festivities. Lincoln’s holiday was to start with people acknowledging the “Supreme Government of God” and bowing “in humble submission to his chastisements.” Then they were to publicly confess and deplore their sins and transgressions and beg for forgiveness.

Lincoln’s hope was that, if America repented of its sins, God would bring an end to the Civil War. His day of self-hatred, starvation, and prayer, though, didn’t exactly catch on quite the same way Thanksgiving did.

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