After America’s victory at Saratoga in October of 1777, the Continental Congress suggested we observe a day of thanksgiving. General Washington gave the order setting aside Thursday, December 18, 1777, as a day for Americans to give “Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise” to God.
The Story of Thanksgiving – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are my two favorite holidays because they are about people – families, neighbors, our fellow-countrymen, and the human race at large. You don’t have to worry about shopping for presents at busy malls on these two awesome holidays.
—Why We Celebrate It In November Today
According to Abraham Lincoln Online, “Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the ‘day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.’ She explained, ‘You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution…Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times…President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately…”
The Proclamation made Thanksgiving a yearly national holiday celebrated on the last Thursday of November. It encourages us to be grateful for our many benefits and prays for peace, harmony, and tranquility among the American people. This is a message we dearly need today.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
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. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
—A Short History of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving celebrations didn’t originate with the American colonists, they have a long history. Among the ancient Hebrews the Feast of Tabernacles was an occasion to be thankful for the harvest. In 1346 England, during the hundred year’s war, under Edward the Third, a national thanksgiving was celebrated after the battle of Cressy. Henry the 5th celebrated one soon after that.
Like many of our customs, Thanksgiving celebrations were carried over from Europe and adapted to new circumstances. The Puritans, on December 11, 1621, grateful for a good harvest, celebrated the first thanksgiving on American shores. In 1630 they held another one to celebrate the safe arrival of Governor Winthrop, then again the following year because they received fresh provisions. Thanksgivings were spontaneous among the Colonists, having no annual set dates, being celebrated on specific occasions as a response to some sort of blessing or success.
It was on October 3, 1789, that President George Washington issued the first “Thanksgiving” proclamation under our current Constitution. Part of it reads as follows:
“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.”
Washington was calling for a day of thanksgiving as America was embarking on a new experiment in a hostile world. Recognizing the historical significance of the event, Washington especially wanted the American people to be thankful for the FORM of Government which is designed to promote our safety and happiness.
Why is the form of Government under which we live so important that Washington would single it out as a special object of thanksgiving? Do you know what makes our form of Government so special?
Why is the form of Government under which we live so important that Washington would single it out as a special object of thanksgiving? Do you know what makes our form of Government so special? Learn about it here in this extremely important, yet short and fun video: