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 had 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 blessing or success.
On this day, October 3, 1789, 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 Americans embarked on a new experiment in a hostile world. Recognizing the event’s historical significance, Washington mostly wanted the American people to be thankful for the FORM of Government designed for our safety and happiness.
The Constitution is that form of government. Do you know it? Are you Thankful?–
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