Okay, then, Thanksgiving is a time to have reenactments of the Pilgrims like at the first thanksgiving in Plymouth Colony in 1621. Right?
Actually, no, the harvest festival of the Pilgrims was in gratitude for the less than fifty-percent who survived the first winter in a new land. Those who survived did so chiefly because of the compassion of the Native-Americans. But, that is not why we celebrate Thanksgiving.
It most definitely was not the reason for our current holiday. (See the end of the article for my free Thanksgiving Holiday Helper.)
Okay, okay, Thanksgiving was a holiday started after some war, probably World War One or Two. Right? Almost right. It was a war, our first as a nation.
On October 11, 1782, mere months before the end of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation for a day of giving thanks. The Congress expressed in their document that they were mindful of God’s hand on their behalf in the war of independence from monarchical rule. The establishment of a nation of self-ruled individuals was, indeed, cause for gratitude.
The Congress chose November 28, 1782 as the date. Congress recommended that all thirteen states give thanks on this day for the creation of the new nation and for God’s hand in it. Further, they stated that all pray, give cheerful obedience to His laws and practice true religion. True religion in Biblical terms is care of widows, orphans and to keep oneself pure from evil practices.
The proclamation read in part: We do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies.
In those earlier times, states had far more independence than now. This proclamation was not binding on all states. As a result not all celebrated and of those that did, some celebrated on a day other than November 28. New York was the first state to make Thanksgiving a legal holiday (1817).
By the Civil War most states celebrated Thanksgiving a state holiday. But, remember, this was still an occasion to give thanks to God for His provision, mercy and guidance–not to celebrate the harvest feast of the Pilgrims. Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863 that there should be a national day on the last Thursday in November. He issued this proclamation after three and one-half years of bloodshed and sorrow. His proclamation was all the more touching in that he spoke of the loss and pain, then said, “Notwithstanding…” and went on to declare God’s presence and care in the midst of suffering.
Since that day each sitting president has issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would be on the third Thursday in November. In 1941 Congress approved that declaration. In 2007, President George Bush issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation referring back to the original one issued by the Continental Congress in 1782: Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace.
What should you be grateful for this Thanksgiving? Consider this: God has preserved us as a nation for over 230 years, in spite of wars, depression, disease, dissent and difficulty. What a good and gracious God.
I wish you a truly grateful Thanksgiving.
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