Common sense tells an Ole Seagull that something celebrated as “Thanksgiving Day” should be a day of “giving thanks.” Generally speaking, who among us says “thank you” to “no one?” When thanks is given it is for something and is “given” to the person or entity believed to have provided that something.
Yet, even as some would take “CHRIST” out of CHRISTmas they would take the “Giving” out of Thanksgiving. To whom are we giving thanks? From Coronado’s 1541 Thanksgiving in Palo Duro Canyon, in what is now West Texas, through the 1600 Puritan Thanksgivings in New England, history testifies to the fact that our modern day Thanksgiving is rooted on giving thanks to God for blessings bestowed.
The true meaning of “Thanksgiving,” and its involvement with the very foundation of our Nation can be readily gleaned from the Proclamations establishing it and history itself. One of the “First Thanksgiving Proclamations,” issued in 1676, by the Governing Council of Charlestown, Massachusetts proclaimed, “a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favor …”
On December 18, 1777, after the victory over the British at Saratoga, the Congress recommended, “That at one time, and with one voice, the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgements and offerings they may join the penitent confession of their sins; and supplications for such further blessings as they stand in need of.”
On November 16, 1789, the First President of the United States, George Washington, issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation stating, “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 thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Perhaps Abraham Lincoln, in his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation said it best. “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.”
Particularly at this time in our Nation’s history, it would seem appropriate, during our Thanksgiving celebrations, to stop and give “thanks” to Almighty God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this Nation and its people. As Lincoln so beautifully said, “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.”