Origins of Thanksgiving
On this Thanksgiving Day, here is some information about the origins of Thanksgiving and how this particular national holiday came into being:
“Thanksgiving is a holiday we all know and love, but the origins of this celebration are slightly mysterious. That’s because they occurred in the early beginnings of American culture—before libraries, photos, and way before the internet—so most of what we know about the first Thanksgiving comes from the diary of Plymouth, Massachusetts, governor William Bradford. His manuscript, Of Plymouth Plantation, detailed his voyage to the new world, settling in Plymouth, and many important events thereafter, including one particularly fateful dinner that took place in the fall of 1621.”
“By 1789, the “thanksgiving” tradition was still not an official holiday. Reports say that George Washington declared a “national thanksgiving” on the last Thursday of November that year, but a declaration like that was essentially just a nice idea—still not official. Because Bradford’s manuscript with the actual accounts of that first Thanksgiving had yet to be published, there was little public interest in the holiday.”
Origins of Thanksgiving – Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation; October 3, 1789 –
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
In setting aside a day for Thanksgiving, Washington established a non-sectarian tone for these devotions and stressed political, moral, and intellectual blessings that make self-government possible, in addition to personal and national repentance.
In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863.
Origins of Thanksgiving – Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation; October 3, 1863 –
“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. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently 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 enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”