A quintessentially American tradition imbued with divine purpose, Thanksgiving started as a set of small, local celebrations and intermittent presidential proclamations before President Abraham Lincoln declared it an annual national holiday in 1863. Thinker readers may appreciate two early iterations of Thanksgiving:
In 1565, Spanish colonists anchored their fleet in Florida, named their settlement “St. Augustine” after the author of The City of God, and held a Catholic Mass. Timucuan natives attended. Afterward, the Spanish and the Timucuans enjoyed a communal dinner, with the Spanish thanking God for their safe passage to America.
As the devoutly religious Spanish worshiped God, perhaps they looked to this passage from the Book of Psalms: “Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom and speak of your might.”
More probable is that the Spanish and Timucuans dined on stew and biscuits from the Spanish, and seafood and game from the Timucuans.
55 years later, in 1620, the Pilgrims docked at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, to avoid religious persecution in England. They had a rough start, with their population declining from 102 to 52 after their departure, but the Wampanoag natives’ technical expertise helped save the Pilgrims from starvation.
The thankful Pilgrims and the Wampanoag enjoyed a three-day communal meal, where the two parties expressed their bonds of gratitude and signed a peace treaty.
“Instead of famine, now God gave [the Pilgrims] plenty, and the face of things was changed to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God,” said William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Plantation.
Drawing on the deep religiosity of those who first settled America, President Lincoln ordained the annual Thanksgiving holiday with the observation that America’s successes “are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” Our sixteenth president continued thus:
It has seemed to me fit and proper that [our successes] 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 . . . 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.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for our family, friends, education, and country—whose national character derived inspiration from the early Thanksgiving dinners. And most of all, we are thankful that the Almighty God allows us to know and seek comfort in Him.
What a wonderful example of THE FREEDOMS that are experienced in The United Stats Of America.
To be able to Voice ones opinion, and have a Platform to do so, validates the meaning of Freedom of Speech and the Tolerance upheld by the Laws in America.
These Freedoms,exist because they were fought for — and ALL Americans must be Vigilant in the Protection of those Freedoms.