While on errands today, I overheard shopkeepers telling customers happy holidays. One young woman who handled my purchase wished me Happy Thanksgiving. I was surprised and asked her why Happy Thanksgiving instead of happy holidays. Her answer disappointed me but it was not unexpected – we live in Washington, D.C. where the state-sanctioned religion is atheism.
Everyone displays their tolerance towards other faiths with COEXIST bumper stickers, but when it comes to Christianity, they make strong exceptions. She told me in a very confident voice that Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday and thus she would not be offending anyone with her wishes. It is just another holiday that everyone celebrates. I did not have the patience to tell her how wrong and ignorant she was.
According to Stanley Yavneh Klos, the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation Presidents issued National Thanksgiving Day Proclamations in 1776, 1777, 1779, 1780, 1781, and 1782. The first presidential proclamation was issued by John Hancock as President of the United Colonies Continental Congress on March 16, 1776. (Historic.us)
President George Washington, the first president of the United States under the Constitution of 1787 released his proclamation on October 3, 1789 in New York City. Both Houses of Congress requested the President to “recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer, formally declared November 26 to be devoted by the People of these States 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.”
Praising the “civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed,” President George Washington assigned Thursday, the 26th day of November, as a day in which “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.”
President George Washington wished that through our prayers God would “enable us all,… 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 bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…” (www.heritage.org/initiatives/first.../washingtons-thanksgiving-proclamation)
Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President (1861-1865) issued Proclamation 106 – Thanksgiving Day, 1863 on October 3, 1863. It begins:
“The year that is drawing toward 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 can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the every-watching providence of the Almighty God.”
President Lincoln described the wealth, the strength, the bounty, the population increase in spite of the civil war losses, the plows that have enlarged the borders and the settlements, have grown the crops, the “large increase in freedom,” the mines of coal, iron, and precious metals that have enlarged their abundant production. “The laws have been respected and obeyed; harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”
President Lincoln, a man of God, recognized that “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
In the last paragraph, President Lincoln pronounced that the American people should “solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledge, as with one heart and one voice,” these “gracious gifts of the Most High God.”
“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.”
Americans, he said, should not just be thankful for their blessings, but also humbly penitent for “our national perverseness and disobedience.” Widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers should be commended to God’s tender care, he said. …” In the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, … 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.” (The American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=69900)
The Thanksgiving holiday that we continue to celebrate today was established by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and was made law by Congress in 1941. It was rooted in religion and God. The fact that Americans, particularly young Americans, do not know our country’s history, is a sad reflection on our “progressive” education system that teaches revisionist history or none at all.