The fall has arrived, Halloween is coming, Thanksgiving on its heels, then, before we know it, Christmas will be here. Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are my two favorite holidays because they are about people – families, neighbors, fellow-countrymen, and the human race at large. You don’t have to worry about shopping for presents at busy malls on these two holidays.
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.
It was on this day, October 3, 1789, that 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 America was embarking on a new experiment in a hostile world. Recognizing the historical significance of the event, Washington especially wanted the American people to be thankful for the FORM of Government, which is for our safety and happiness.
Why is the form of Government under which we live so crucial that Washington would single it out as a particular object of thanksgiving? Do you know what makes our form of Government so special? Learn more by visiting the “Know the Constitution” category of MadisonLiberty.org.
Daniel Sheridan is an article and post contributor for Madison Liberty. More than that, he is a husband, father, pastor, historian, writer, teacher of the U.S. Constitution, storyteller, and public speaker.