This day through the years

While the concept of Thanksgiving is not tied to a single country, it has developed into a tradition that has been associated with America and its national history.  It has developed and changed from a purely faith based expression of gratitude for God's care and providence during a period of time or endeavor.  Over the years in America it has become more of a feasting, family and consumerism day than one of reverence in gratitude.  Here is a short history of Thanksgiving as celebrated in America.

Nov. 24, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving! The Daily Signal team hopes you and your family and friends have a wonderful celebration today. We're certainly grateful for all of our readers. Gratitude to God for the blessings bestowed on our nation is a long-standing American tradition. The Heritage Foundation's Lee Edwards walks us through the history of Thanksgiving. We'll be back on Monday. Commentary

Thanksgiving Through the Years

George Washington was first in war, first in peace, and in November 1789, the first president to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving, openly acknowledging God as the source of all "the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us."

Among the "favors" were a Declaration of Independence that inspires us to the present day, a remarkable military victory over the most powerful nation in the world, and an ingenious Constitution of checks and balances that places "we the people" at the center of our government.

For the next fourscore and seven years, most states honored a November date as a day of prayer and fasting, but there was no national celebration. Of the early presidents, only James Madison, in 1814 and 1815, issued proclamations.

Then in November 1863, with the Civil War still raging, President Abraham Lincoln officially declared the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving. Echoing Washington, Lincoln asked Americans to "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 employment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union."

God heard the people's prayers for an end to war and the preservation of the Union, but He had yet to vouchsafe a "full" employment of harmony and tranquility.

Succeeding presidents issued proclamations in the same providential spirit of Lincoln and Washington, freely thanking God for His favors and benefits. In 1904, for example, President Theodore Roosevelt said that "the time has come [again] when a special day shall be set apart in which to thank Him, who holds all nations in the hollow of His hand, for the mercies thus vouchsafed to us." In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge said that Americans should "devoutly give thanks to the Almighty for the many and great blessings they have received, to seek His guidance that they may receive a continuance of His favor."

However, with the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the coming of secular progressivism, God was given an increasingly secondary role while the "civic spirit" of America was extolled. "May we on Thanksgiving Day and on every day," said FDR in the middle of World War II, careful not to use the "G" word, "express our gratitude and zealously devote ourselves to our duties as individuals and as a nation."

President John F. Kennedy also skirted the word "God," calling on Americans to "renew that spirit [of Thanksgiving] by offering our thanks for uncovenanted mercies, beyond our desert or merit, and by resolving to meet the responsibilities placed upon us." Faithful to his progressive roots, President Barack Obama declared in his 2012 Thanksgiving proclamation that "we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth but from our bonds to each other" (but not, apparently, to a transcendent being).

As he did in so many ways, President Ronald Reagan broke sharply with the progressives, taking inspiration from Washington and Lincoln and reemphasizing the religious character of Thanksgiving. Quoting the 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation, Reagan said that "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." Reagan went on: "God has blessed America and her people, and it is appropriate we recognize this bounty."

Thanksgiving has always been rooted in the notion, wrote commentator Daniel Horowitz, "that as a nation, our entire prosperity, security, and liberty is completely dependent upon God's providence." So on this Thanksgiving Day in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, let us give thanks and thanks and ever thanks to Him who gives us life, liberty, and happiness.

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Comments (9)

  1. fierylady

    May your Thanksgiving Day be one of love and cherishing our lives, our homes and our Country! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, my friend!

    November 24, 2016
    1. SEC

      thank you and to you the same

      November 24, 2016
  2. noahbody

    I hope this day was a good one for you, full of blessings and peace and joy.

    November 25, 2016
    1. SEC

      alone and peaceful

      November 25, 2016
      1. noahbody

        Alone? I am sorry for you but peaceful is good.

        November 25, 2016
  3. wonderwall79

    Once again I’m late to the party some things never change however I do wish you and everyone a happy thanksgiving with a nod of me brim I give a humble thanks.
    Unfortunately we don’t so much celebrate it here although it’s blissfully aware in our minds perhaps we’d be a Little richer if we done this everyday but I guess I’m a silly ole cowpoke what would I know

    November 26, 2016
    1. SEC

      as would we all if we’d declare our own individual days of Thanksgiving. cowpoke you may be, but shall we debate the adjectives I don’t think they apply at all at all

      November 26, 2016
      1. wonderwall79

        humbly I concur
        Yes I found the more I’m losing in life the more I see my errors and the more I should of been thankful until it’s too late and no one is left for me to say anything too

        November 27, 2016
        1. SEC

          Unfortunately that is all too common

          November 27, 2016