Editor’s note: This originally appeared on Thanksgiving Day, 2014.
Thanksgiving is a peculiar holiday, at least in the modern world. Its roots are religious, and the American nation is, at least in law, secular. Its very name speaks of thanks, or gratitude, and gratitude is an ancient virtue. Indeed Aristotle speaks highly of it. Even so, or perhaps for that reason, it is very American. In his Thanksgiving address in 1922, President Coolidge called it “perhaps the most characteristic of our national observances.” He was not wrong for, as Chesterton wrote, America is “a nation with the soul of a church,” and Abraham Lincoln called us an “almost chosen people.”