- THANKSGIVING? WHAT’S THAT, DADDY?
Family Research Council’s Kenyn Cureton asked, “Whatever happened to Thanksgiving? Have you noticed how all the stores go from Orange and Black to Red and Green with no transition? Is it just me or has Thanksgiving just become a speed bump between Halloween and Christmas?”
We agree. America arguably has more to be thankful to God for than any other nation on earth.
Yet between the commercialized celebration of ghosts, witches, and demons, and Santa’s usurpation of our Lord’s birthday, Thanksgiving has been all but squeezed out.
Where did our American Thanksgiving tradition come from, anyway?
Some of our impressionable school children have been taught that the Pilgrims thanked the Indians.
To teach the children that the Pilgrims thanked God would be “religion” and therefore a violation of the misinterpreted doctrine of “Separation of Church and State.”
So what really did happen, and what does it have to do with us today?
David Barton of Wallbuilders explains: (edited down.)
Our current American tradition of Thanksgiving Day derives primarily from the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving celebration of 1621.
The Pilgrims were ill equipped for survival during the first harsh winter and almost half of them died. God sent them help from two Indians, Samoset and Squanto, who taught them much about how to live in the New World and helped forge a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians.
After a bountiful harvest the next year the Pilgrims declared a three-day feast to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends— It was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival.
In 1623, during a prolonged drought, Governor Bradford called for a time of prayer and fasting. Shortly after, clouds appeared and a gentle and steady rain began to fall. As the Governor explained:
“It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.”
The drought had been broken; the fall therefore produced an abundant harvest. The New England Colonies therefore developed a practice of calling for a day of prayer and fasting in the spring, and a day of prayer and thanksgiving in the fall.
America’s first national Thanksgiving occurred in 1789, when President George Washington, at the request of the Congress, issued the first federal Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring in part:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor. . . . Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln, having recently given his heart to Christ, called for the setting aside of the last Thursday of that November as a day of Thanksgiving.
In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of each November, and in 1941, Congress permanently established that day as the national Thanksgiving holiday.
(Below are examples of the scores of Thanksgiving proclamations penned by various Founding Fathers.)
[Congress] recommended [a day of] . . . thanksgiving and praise [so] that “the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and join . . . their supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to forgive [our sins] and . . . to enlarge [His] kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Continental Congress, 1777 – written by signers of the Declaration Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee
“[I] appoint . . . a day of public Thanksgiving to Almighty God . . . to [ask] Him that He would . . . pour out His Holy Spirit on all ministers of the Gospel; that He would . . . spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; . . . and that He would establish these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue.” Governor Thomas Jefferson, 1779
“[I] appoint . . . a day of public thanksgiving and praise . . . to render to God the tribute of praise for His unmerited goodness towards us . . . [by giving to] us . . . the Holy Scriptures which are able to enlighten and make us wise to eternal salvation. And [to] present our supplications…that He would forgive our manifold sins and . . . cause the benign religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the inhabitants of the earth.” Governor John Hancock, 1790
The first Pilgrim celebration included feasting, athletic contests and prayer.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let’s enjoy the day. But let’s make our thanksgiving to the Lord more than just an obligatory, perfunctory exercise. Let’s hear some Hallelujahs.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
See you next time? . . .