Thanksgiving is a holiday that evokes many different emotions in those who celebrate it or are around those who do. For some, it is a time of religious gratitude in which they can turn their minds to all that God has provided for them. For others, it’s a time to remember the mistakes of our past and the long-lasting consequences of colonialism. For others still, it’s a time to consider the changes that have occurred over the preceding year and what’s going to happen when the new year begins. These Thanksgiving poems on this list tap into all these viewpoints while sharing a few more.
Explore the Best Thanksgiving Poems
- 1 A Thank-Offering by Ella Higginson
- 2 The Pilgrims Came by Annette Wynne
- 3 The Harvest Moon by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- 4 When Giving Is All We Have by Alberto Rios
- 5 A Thanksgiving Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar
- 6 Remember by Joy Harjo
- 7 Thanksgiving by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
- 8 Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene by Craig Santos Perez
- 9 Grace for a Child by Robert Herrick
- 10 The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier
- 11 The Thanksgivings by Harriet Maxwell Converse
- 12 A Thanksgiving to God, for his House by Robert Herrick
- 13 One day is there of series by Emily Dickinson
- 14 Thanksgiving Day by Lydia Maria Child
- 15 The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver
- 16 Thankful by Mandy Cidlik
- 17 Thanksgiving by Edgar Guest
- 18 Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Year by Thornton W. Burgess
- 19 Butter by Elizabeth Alexander
- 20 Home by Bruce Weigl
A Thank-Offering by Ella Higginson
In ‘A Thank-Offering’ the speaker offers her thanks to God for the things they have, no matter if they are tinged with adversity or not. She thanks him for the “leaf and flower” as well as the food by which they are all fed.
Yea, generous God, we thank Thee for this land
Where all are fed,
Where at the doors no freezing beggars stand,
Pleading for bread.
The Pilgrims Came by Annette Wynne
‘The Pilgrims Came’ is a simple poem in which the speaker talks through the traditional story of Thanksgiving, the pilgrims, and their bravery. She ends the poem by declaring that “We thank the pilgrims every one.”
The Pilgrims came across the sea, And never thought of you and me;
And yet it’s very strange the way We think of them Thanksgiving Day.
‘The Harvest Moon’ is a lovely depiction of the autumn season, the movements of birds, the colors of the landscape, and more. The poet alludes to the labor of the harvest and the rest that comes after.
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests.
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
When Giving Is All We Have by Alberto Rios
‘When Giving Is All We Have’ uses repetition in order to describe the nature of giving, sharing, and being together. The poem concludes that this kind of communal action makes a great difference in the lives of all involved.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us
A Thanksgiving Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar
‘A Thanksgiving Poem’ is a dedication to a year of good harvests, successes, and devotion to God. The speaker addresses God directly, calling him Father and thanking him for what he has given to the speaker and those around him. In the end, he declares that there’s no way for him, or any human being, to adequately thank God for all that he has given.
The sun hath shed its kindly light,
Our harvesting is gladly o’er
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
Our bins are filled with goodly store
‘Remember’ is less about Thanksgiving and move about feeling generally grateful for all that one has in life. IN her classically beautiful language, Harjo asks the reader to “Remember” everything from the wind to one’s father, mother, and one place in the universe.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Thanksgiving by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
In ‘Thanksgiving,’ the poet’s speaker addresses the fact that humanity walks through life, mostly, without acknowledging the things that can be found all around them. The “blessings common in our sight” are usually ignored. She ends the poem by stating that “We out to make the moments notes / Of happy, glad Thanksgiving.”
There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene by Craig Santos Perez
‘Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene’ is one of the longer poems on this list and one that takes a different look at Thanksgiving. The poem ends with the harrowing line: “May we forgive each other and be forgiven” after the speaker discusses pollution, production, loss, and trade.
Thank you, 90 million factory-farmed turkeys, for giving
your lives during the holidays. Thank you, factory-farm
Grace for a Child by Robert Herrick
In ‘Grace for a Child,’ Herrick writes briefly from the perspective of a child who stands devotionally before God asking for a blessing.
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat, and on us all. Amen.
The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier
‘The Pumpkin’ is filled with images that are loosely and more directly associated with Thanksgiving. He talks about pumpkin pie as well as boyhood, “the banks of the Xenil,” and a “dark Spanish maiden.” In the end, he expresses the hope that life is as good and “sweet” as “thy own Pumpkin pie.”
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!
The Thanksgivings by Harriet Maxwell Converse
‘The Thanksgivings’ was translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer in which the speakers thank the “Great Spirit” who created men and women and “ordered that these things being shall always be living to multiply the earth.” The poem uses repetition in order to walk through the various reasons the speakers have to be grateful.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
A Thanksgiving to God, for his House by Robert Herrick
In ‘A Thanksgiving to God, for his House,’ the speaker addresses God while going through all of the many blessings that he has. Although he’s not rich, he has a small kitchen, food to eat, and coal to cook it over. He reminds the reader and himself that it is due to God’s goodness that he has everything he does.
Lord, Thou hast given me a cell
Wherein to dwell,
A little house, whose humble roof
Under the spars of which I lie
Both soft, and dry;
‘One day is there of series’ is a lesser-known Dickinson poem. It starts with a seemingly skeptical tone in regards to the holiday, what it’s called, and how people celebrate it. But, in the end, she seems slightly more optimistic.
One day is there of the series
Termed Thanksgiving day,
Celebrated part at table,
Part in memory.
Thanksgiving Day by Lydia Maria Child
‘Thanksgiving Day’ by Lydia Maria Child is also known as ‘Over the river and through the wood.’ It appeared in her 1844 volume, Flowers for Children, Volume 2. It celebrates the poet’s memories of her childhood and visiting her grandmother’s house.
Over the river and through the wood,
To have first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver
This is one of the shortest poems on the list. In it, Oliver declares that a “box full of darkness,’ which she was metaphorically gifted, was also “a gift.” The short lines of the poem are about understanding one’s life and making the most of everything that happens. Even negative events can have positive outcomes.
It took me year to understand
that this, too, was a gift
Thankful by Mandy Cidlik
‘Thankful’ is another quite short poem. In it, the speaker declares that “you,” likely a young reader, are not going to get treats, tricks, flowers, or presents. Instead, “just be THANKFUL,” she says, for life.
No gifts to buy or presents to give,
Just be THANKFUL for the life that you live.
Thanksgiving by Edgar Guest
In ‘Thanksgiving, ’ Guest encourages the reader to get together with those they love and celebrate the lives they share. He also asks for the moments at the end of the year when “toilin’ is done,” and one can sit down and put their soul into “Thanksgivin’ prayers.”
Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best
Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Year by Thornton W. Burgess
‘Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Year’ is a short eleven-line poem in which the speaker acknowledges the brevity of thanksgiving and that he’s going to work hard so that he can be “light of heart the whole day long.”
Thanksgiving comes but once a year,
But when it comes it brings good cheer.
For in my storehouse on this day
Are piles of good things hid away.
Butter by Elizabeth Alexander
‘Butter’ is a poem about family relationships, food, and how the two can come together to create a wonderful experience. The poet spends time talking about her mother’s love for butter, which is even greater than her own, and how they cook.
My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter!
Home by Bruce Weigl
‘Home’ is a contemporary poem in which the speaker addresses some of the things he “didn’t know.” These include visions of cornfields in the “late-autumn” and how he’d use “this music” to translate “the world / back into dirt fields” that have always called to him.
I didn’t know I was grateful
for such late-autumn
yellow in the after-harvest