Thanksgiving: God, Family and Country

Thanksgiving: God, Family and Country

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Nick Yanakas, Social Policy Contributor

It may seem hard to believe, given our overly-secularized culture today, but Thanksgiving’s original intent and purpose was to seek out God’s blessings and pray for our nation. 

At its core, Thanksgiving has always been about faith, family and country.

On December 17, 1777, the first national thanksgiving proclamation was announced by the Continental Congress and drafted by Samuel Adams. In it, the colonists proclaimed that this day of thanksgiving would be set aside as a day of reflection and prayer:

That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole.

ur nation marked its first Thanksgiving under a new Constitution on November 26, 1789 following a proclamation written by George Washington. In it, Washington proclaimed that this day of thanksgiving would be devoted 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.”


Although an official day of thanksgiving was not established until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, other presidents still set aside days of prayer and thanksgiving. As an example, on April 25, 1799, President John Adams called for another day of thanksgiving where the nation would reflect and repent from its sins:

I do hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the 25th day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain as far as may be from their secular occupations, devote the time to the sacred duties of religion in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come

As alluded to earlier, Thanksgiving became a national holiday during President Lincoln’s term in office. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as our national day of thanksgiving. Lincoln did so after the consistent lobbying of American writer Sarah Josepha Hale who is now known as the, “Godmother of Thanksgiving.” 

Lincoln’s creation of a new national holiday came amidst a nation deeply divided and ravaged by a civil war. In his letter to the nation, Lincoln acknowledged the division while calling on the nation to unite on this day to give thanks to God for his blessings to America while seeking out his help in healing the divide:

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. 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.

While Black Friday deals are great, and watching football is great, let us not forget our history and what Thanksgiving is truly about. Although we are a nation divided; still give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings of liberty we continue to be the beneficiaries of, still give thanks to the Lord for enjoying the highest standard of living in human history, still give thanks to the Lord that we may continue to be friends and get along peacefully with those we disagree with. 

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the Lord for all the great blessings in my life including, but not limited to, my ability to share a Thanksgiving dinner with my Parents, my Brother, my Sister-in law, my Aunt, my Grandmother and our family friends.  

On Thanksgiving day, I will seek out the Lord, honor the greatness and history of our country and bask in the joy of being surrounded by friends and family. 

Let us all do this collectively, as our forefathers intended. 


Follow the author on Twitter @NYanakas

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