The Reason for the Season
Vol: 26 Issue: 27 Thursday, November 27, 2003
In 1863, President Lincoln formally and officially established the last Thursday in November as the day set aside for Americans to tally their blessings and give thanks to God.
Prior to the Lincoln proclamation, days of thanksgiving were proclaimed to give thanks only sporadically, and often for specific reasons.
In October of 1777 a Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed to enable the entire nation to give thanks to God for the victory over the British at Saratoga.
The first observance of Thanksgiving in America was entirely religious in nature and involved no form of feasting.
On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River…a location now known as Charles City, Virginia. The charter of the group required that the day of arrival be observed as a Day of Thanksgiving to God. The Thanksgiving feast day was first celebrated in the fall of 1621 to celebrate a bountiful harvest. It was a three day festival patterned after the traditional English Harvest Festival. This is the event that is the forerunner to the uniquely American tradition of thanksgiving.
It is this tradition of recognizing God as the Author of national blessing that is uniquely American and undoubtedly the principle reason for America’s greatness.
Tracing the history of the tradition of Thanksgiving Day utterly destroys the mythical ‘wall of separation’ between Church and State. I’m indebted to John Whitehead for researching this quote from Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas from a case entitled Zorach v. Clauson. Douglas wrote his decision the year I was born.
In his decision, he ruled, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom of worship as one chooses.”
President Washington’s proclamation of Thanksgiving begins; “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.”
President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation begins; “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.”
During the 20th century, Thanksgiving Day has dumbed down considerably from its original intent and purpose. In the 1930’s President Roosevelt moved it back a week to add an extra week to the Christmas shopping season. It took an Act of Congress to restore it to its original date.
As the century progressed, God was systematically removed from almost all American holidays, but so far, nobody has figured a way to effectively remove Him as the Reason for the season. There hasn’t even been that much success at commercializing it.
Commercially, Thanksgiving Day is the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, but the day itself is still set aside to share our blessings with our families and thank God for them. And it is still an American tradition for American families to gather around the Thanksgiving feast.
Despite the constant rulings from the courts removing God from public discourse, every presidential Thanksgiving proclamation from Roosevelt in 1936 to Bush’s proclamation this year, all acknowledged God as the Author of American prosperity.
Reagan quoted Scripture. Even Bill Clinton acknowledged God, saying, “Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community.”
Last year, President Bush proclaimed, “As the Pilgrims did almost four centuries ago, we gratefully give thanks this year for the beauty, abundance, and opportunity this great land offers. We also thank God for the blessings of freedom and prosperity; and, with gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the importance of faith in our lives.”
The American tradition of Thanksgiving Day is more important to our national security than we realize.
Thanksgiving Day is the source and reason for our strength.
It is the one day that the proud American nation humbles itself before God, from the most liberal Supreme Court justice to the President of the United States, by official proclamation.
It is the one day that America confirms Justice Douglas’ 1952 ruling that America’s system PRESUPPOSES a Supreme Being. That is to say, America, despite the best efforts of the ignorant, could not function without the explicit recognition of God. Every elected official still takes his oath of office with his hand on the Bible.
I am thankful I was born at the time and place that I was, and was able to experience a brief period when it wasn’t unfashionable to recognize God. I am thankful I am saved.
I am exceedingly thankful for you, my Omega Letter family. I am thankful for my health, my children, and for blessings to numerous to count.
But this Thanksgiving Day, it is for the day itself that I am the most thankful.
May God extend His richest blessings to each of you and to your families on this national day of Thanksgiving.
“Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.” (Psalms 75:1)