Thanksgiving is a tradition deeply rooted in our nation’s history. It began with the Pilgrims, who celebrated their first harvest with the Indians in 1621, after a long and difficult winter. And in 1777, while still in the midst of our Revolutionary war, the Continental Congress made the first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation as a new independent nation. Then in 1789, shortly after the adoption of the Bill of Rights, our first U.S. Congress set forth the first national day of Thanksgiving to be recognized in our new Constitutional Republic. But it was not until 1863, while our country was again embroiled in the midst of war, when President Lincoln proclaimed the official reoccurring day of Thanksgiving, to be celebrated every November as it is today.
I always found it curious that no matter the war and strife our nation experienced, we still came together to give thanks to our Creator. One would think that our forefathers would blame God for their misery up that point, and be filled with anger and bitterness. But they weren’t. Somehow they managed to look past their losses and pressed on. It is in that same spirit that we still celebrate Thanksgiving. We remember all the blessings that we have, and a Creator that makes those blessings possible despite any trials. We know that victory in this life has never been rooted in our past, but will be harvested in our future. I think it was this knowledge that gave those first Pilgrims the hope, peace and grace to give thanks despite any lingering sorrow. May you have that same peace as you celebrate your own family’s Thanksgiving, and in that vein I leave you with the blessing of another redhead:
“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 – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.” ~ President George Washington