Let's Remember the Meaning of Thanksgiving Day
By Raymond Mc Nair
(The PLAIN TRUTH Magazine November 1976)
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving day…, do we Americans realize the real source and the true extent of our many blessings? Have we Americans carelessly forgotten the real meaning of Thanksgiving day?…
Brief History of Thanksgiving
In December 1620. the Mayflower anchored at Plymouth Rock. Massachusetts. A small band of 103 Pilgrims landed on the bleak . wintry coast of present-day Massachusetts. intending to set up a new colony - a Christian commonwealth - where they could worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. Before landing at Plymouth. the Pilgrims drew up the "Mayflower Compact" by which they intended to govern themselves:
"We whose names arc underwritten.
the loyal subjects of our
dread Sovereign Lord King
James. Having undertaken. for
the Glory of God and advancement
of the Christian Faith and Honour
of our King and Country. a Voyage
to plant the First Colony in the
Northern Parts of Virginia. do by
these presents solemnly and mutually
in the presence of God and
one another. Covenant and Combine
ourselves together into a Civil
Body Politic. for our better ordering
and preservation and furtherance of
the ends aforesaid .... "
That terrible winter of 1620-21 took a frightful toll in sickness and death among the brave Pilgrims. Only 56 o ut of the 103 who landed there survived. But with spring, new hope budded. Each Pilgrim family now had a home. And they were blessed with the friendship of a friendly and helpful Indian named Squanto.
During the spring of 1621. the Pilgrim settlers planted 20 acres of corn. 6 of barley. plus some peas. All summer long they anxiously tended their first crop in the New World - for they knew that their very lives depended upon the successful maturing of that crop. The corn and barley did well. but the hot sun parched the peas.
The First Thanksgiving Day This hardy band of Pilgrims were accustomed to the English thanksgiving celebrations. observed after the British had defeated the French in 1386 and the Spanish in 1588 when their "' Invincible Armada" had sailed against England. Furthermore. during their brief stay in Holland the devout Pilgrims had seen the Dutch celebrate a day of thanksgiving for their victory over the Spaniards in October 1575.
It was quite natural, therefore, for the Pilgrims to observe a day of thanksgiving after anxiously watching their crops ripen during the long summer of 1621. After the harvesting of a bumper crop. their governor. William Bradford. set aside a day for special feasting and thanksgiving. For three days the women folk served the men at long tables. That first thanksgiving feast included wild turkeys. wood pigeons. partridges. ducks, geese, Indian pudding, hoecake. and fish. After dinner. the Pilgrims entertained their Indian guests by demonstrating their firearms. while the Indians did the same with their bows. A lso they participated in various athletic events, games, and races.
Other Days of Thanksgiving many different days of thanksgiving were observed by the people of the Thirteen Colonies for various reasons during the decades which followed. Various thanksgiving days were observed in grateful appreciation for bountiful crops. victories, and deliverance from pestilence. In 1742. the governor of Georgia, James Oglethorpe. issued the following thanksgiving proclamation as a result of the dramatic victory which the English won over the Spaniards in the southeastern part of America, so wonderfully were we protected and preserved, that in this great and formidable conflict but few of our men were taken, and but three killed. Truly the Lord has done great things for us. by rescuing us from the power of a numerous foe. who boasted that they would conquer and dispossess us. Not our strength or might have saved us: our salvation is of the Lord. "Therefore it is highly becoming us to render thanks to God our deliverer. ... "
The Continental Congress also proclaimed several days of thanksgiving during the American Revolution - days during which the colonists could rejoice in their homes and churches for victories won. In 1778. General George Washington proclaimed a day on which to give thanks for the important treaties which the Thirteen Colonies had just concluded with France.
Washington's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
In 1789. during the first year of his presidency, George Washington issued America’s first Thanksgiving day proclamation. thereby setting a precedent for succeeding presidents to follow.
In Washington's national Thanksgiving proclamation, he said:
" . .. 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:”
President Washington. therefore. set aside November 26, 1789 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.”
Washington asked his fellow Americans to give thanks for their God-given victories during the Revolutionary War, for
"tranquility, union. and plenty ... [for] constitutions
of government for our safety and happiness. and particularly
the national one ... for the civil and religious liberty with
which we are blessed ... for all the great and various favors
which He has been pleased to confer upon us.”
Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
The next Thanksgiving day proclamation was made by President Abraham Lincoln. During the bloody Civil War, many Americans came to look upon that conflict as a punishment from the hand of God. Abraham Lincoln also believed that to be so. He issued the nation's second Thanksgiving day proclamation on October 3. 1863:
"This year that is drawing toward
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
nature that they cannot fail
to penetrate and soften even the
heart which is habitually insensible
to the ever-watchful providence of
Almighty God ....
"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 . .. . "
Earlier that same year. on March 30, 1863, President Lincoln had designated a day of fasting and prayer that God might restore peace and union to the nation. In that proclamation he said:
"We have been the recipients of
the choicest bounties of Heaven: we
have been preserved these many
years in peace and prosperity; we
have grown in numbers, wealth, and
power as no other nation has ever
grown. Bu t we have forgotten
God .... "
President Lincoln, therefore, proclaimed "the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer" in the hope that the American people might be reconciled God. forgiven, and healed.
Needed: A Modern-day Lincoln
America today faces far greater threats than during our terrible Civil War. Each year millions die prematurely - because we have forgotten the laws of God. Our fair land is polluted. The food we eat, the water we drink and the very air millions of us breathe is polluted. Violence and sex fill our TV screens and pornography seems to be everywhere. Crime, juvenile delinquency, and lawlessness climb relentlessly. Corruption and bribery are rampant. Immorality and licentiousness fill our land. Divorce and broken homes are common.
Truly. America needs another Abraham Lincoln to call the nation to fasting and prayer - with thanksgiving to God for our many blessings - so that we can be delivered from these things that seriously threaten to des troy this great nation of ours.
America needs to heed the words of her first president. given in his farewell address: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity. religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the
duties of men and citizens."
Also. we need to remember the advice of America's dynamic President Teddy Roosevelt who encouraged "the virtues of courage. honor, justice, truth , sincerity, and hardihood - the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America’s prosperity –at any price, peace-at-any-price, safety first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life."
General Douglas MacArthur also gave America these sobering words on December 12, 1951:
... . . It is essential that every spiritual force
be mobilized to defend and preserve the religious
base upon which this nation was founded.
For it is that base which has been the motivating
impulse to our moral and national growth .
History fails to record a single precedent in which
Nations subject to moral decay have not passed
into political and economic decline. There has been
either a spiritual reawakening to overcome the moral
lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to
ultimate national disaster."
As Americans observe their upcoming Thanksgiving day they must remember that it is meant to be a day of thanksgiving to the Creator-Ruler of the world for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this great nation.
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