As we all do on this day here in America we gather together with family and friends. Some have traditions of going around the room and telling everyone what they are thankful for, some do it privately as they enjoy the company of family however we all gather for food. It is the cornerstone of this holiday. The turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and most importantly pies are the reason so many people look forward to this holiday. Yet who among us has ever examined the origin of the holiday. I don’t mean how the pilgrims first sat down with the Indians and had a big meal. I mean the founding of the holiday itself.
In 1789 George Washington established Thanksgiving as a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Thanksgiving, according to Washington’s proclamation, was established to give thanksgiving to God. I know too much of the time historians try to avoid the discussion of God and prayer because it associates this country and our heritage with Christianity. In this case it is a little hard to avoid. Washington continues on stating that the upcoming 26th of November will be set aside as a day in which it is “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; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.”
These quotes from the proclamation are simply a sample of the entire letter written by Washington and all of it points to one thing, Thanksgiving was established to gather as a country and give thanks to God for the country we have been provided and the blessings in which we have received as a nation. I understand the immediate reaction of all non-Christian citizens whose first thought is anger at reading how this holiday is centered on God and Christianity. Realistically our society viewed Christianity as a norm. It was a regular part of peoples’ everyday lives and to celebrate a day of thanksgiving to that God would not be seen as out of the ordinary. There is no reason a country we should ignore who we are and how we were established. This does not in any way take away from ones right to practice their own religion or no religion at all. It simply just establishes how this holiday was founded and the mentality of many of our founding fathers including George Washington.