Thanksgiving in America is a wonderful time to celebrate our thankfulness to one another, but ultimately to God for his bountiful and undeserved blessings in our lives. America has a rich heritage of giving gratitude to God. This is certainly a tradition we need to pass down to future generations. Take some time this week to share the story again with your children, grandchildren, family and friends.
A Thanksgiving festival is deeply rooted in American history and even predates the Pilgrims’ celebration at Plymouth. Although the one in 1621 is probably the real beginning of Thanksgiving celebrations in America, David Barton of Wallbuilders explains in the video below how days of thanksgiving in American date as far back as 1541 in Palo Duro Canyon in what would later become the state of Texas. There was another in 1595 in St. Augustine, another in 1598 in El Paso as well as several more. You can watch David Barton explain the history of Thanksgiving below in this article.
The majority of presidents from Washington to Obama have made Thanksgiving Day proclamations pointing to God as our ultimate source of blessing. You can read the presidential proclamation of each president by clicking here. We have also included a few below in this article.
We encourage you to watch the video from David Barton, but even more so the following video from “The Story of Liberty” website with your family sometime during the Thanksgiving holiday break. It is about 30 minutes long, but well worth your family’s time if you want them to understand the true significance of this national day dedicated to thanking God for his bountiful and undeserved blessings.
Here is just a glimpse of the story told in the video. The story is rooted in William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation pages 242-243 (Click here for a PDF of the manuscript) In this narrative, Bradford explains that the Pilgrims had endured a terrible drought for months. We pick up the story there…
Upon which they set a part a solemn day of humiliation, to seek ye Lord by humble & fervent prayer, in this great distress. And he was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their own, & the Indian’s admiration, that lived amongst them. For all y e morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather & very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen, yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing, & blessing God. It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by degree in yet abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly were and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken ye decayed corn & 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 faire warm weather, as, through his blessing, caused a fruitful & liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy (in time convenient) they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.
Just amazing, right? These are stories our families need to hear as we consider our own blessings and spend time thanking the Lord.
We also wanted to post some portions of Presidential proclamations from over the years for your understanding of the significance of this day in American history and as a reminder that we are a country with a Christian heritage.
George Washington - 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 and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Abraham Lincoln - The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
Franklin D. Roosevelt - To the end that we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God, I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas. Let every man of every creed go to his own version of the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, President of the United States of America, in consonance with the joint resolution of the Congress approved December 26, 1941, do hereby proclaim Thursday the twenty-third day of November 1944 a day of national thanksgiving and I call upon the people of the United States to observe it by bending every effort to hasten the day of final victory and by offering to God our devout gratitude for His goodness to us and to our men.
Ronald Reagan - Thanksgiving Day summons every American to pause in the midst of activity, however necessary and valuable, to give simple and humble thanks to God. This gracious gratitude is the "service" of which Washington spoke. It is a service that opens our hearts to one another as members of a single family gathered around the bounteous table of God's Creation. The images of the Thanksgiving celebrations at America's earliest settlement—of Pilgrim and Iroquois Confederacy assembled in festive friendship—resonate with even greater power in our own day. People from every race, culture, and creed on the face of the Earth now inhabit this land. Their presence illuminates the basic yearning for freedom, peace, and prosperity that has always been the spirit of the New World.
… The blessings that are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. Let us join then, with the psalmist of old:
O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, Tell of all His wonderful works!
Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 24, 1988, as a National Day of Thanksgiving, and I call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.
David Barton from WallBuilders gives more information on the history of Thanksgiving in America. Watch the video here.
We hope you will enjoy this time of celebration with your friends and family.
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