For most Americans, Thanksgiving means coming together and enjoying a feast of turkey (I like mine fried), cornbread dressing (yes, I'm from the South), sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, candied yams, biscuits and pumpkin pie, among the favorites. This, of course, is followed by watching football and many relatives falling asleep while watching the game.
Then, there's all the shopping for the Christmas holiday which begins immediately afterward which includes Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Thanksgiving goes back some four centuries ago, to our Nation's first colonists who came seeking religious freedom. In 1621, to celebrate their first harvest, some fifty-three Plymouth Pilgrims put on a feast that lasted three days and included ninety members of the Wampanoag Tribe.
They did so to thank God for His many blessings that enabled them to make it to this new land. And just a few years before, at Jamestown, early settlers would set aside a Day of Thanksgiving to "Almighty God."
In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation by the National Government of the United States. Washington issued the proclamation pursuant to a joint resolution of Congress whose author called for all citizens to join "with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings He had poured down upon them."
At the height of the Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens" to take place on the last Thursday in November. It has been observed annually in the U.S. ever since.
Lincoln also urged all Americans on Thanksgiving Day to pray for God to "commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to "heal the wounds of the nation."
In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making Thanksgiving a federal holiday.
Presidential Thanksgiving proclamations have been issued by many presidents ever since. Many boast of their accomplishments or address current domestic or international events. There is one Thanksgiving Day presidential proclamation, however, written some 58 years ago that reminds us what Thanksgiving is really about — thanking God for what He has given us individually and as a Nation.
In November 1963, shortly before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy, in his Thanksgiving Proclamation said, "Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God."
JFK's proclamation is a history lesson in what it means to be an American and persevere with God's help. He further stated, "Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers—for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."
And President Kennedy called on Americans to "gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist."
This Thanksgiving, President Kennedy's words still ring true and remind us what Thanksgiving is all about. He also reminds us that throughout our nation's history we've faced peril, had division and gone through tough times.
But with our faith in God and His blessings, we have made it through it all. This is why we have Thanksgiving and give thanks to God.
Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." He is the 2018 recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II September 11 Garden Leadership Award for National Security. Read Van Hipp's Reports — More Here.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.