We tend to think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday, and in many ways it is. In 1620 a group of English Puritan separatists, after taking temporary refuge in Holland, made their way to the new world on the Mayflower in search of religious freedom. They established the second English settlement at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. These settlers, known as Pilgrims, brought with them the European tradition of an “after harvest” feast. The natives of the region also had a tradition of celebrating the end of the harvest season. So, in 1621, history tells us that they feasted together, giving thanks for their crops. But who did they thank?
While the native Americans worshiped the spirit of their ancestors or the gods of the earth, the Pilgrims gave their thanks to the God of Abraham. Every year since then it has been the offering of thanks to our Creator that has made Thanksgiving a very unique and special day throughout America.
Amid all the anger and demonstrations we see everyday on television, and the constant political finger-pointing and accusations by our political leaders, all Americans should step back for just a moment and acknowledge that we are privileged to live in the most prosperous nation the world has ever known. We must also remember that our prosperity is due to the fact that our nation was founded on a faith in God, not in men.
It is hard to argue with those who express their growing concern over a general decline in America. This trend can be traced to our gradual shift away from our foundational belief in a supreme Creator, to a growing trend toward self-indulgence, self-aggrandizement and self-admiration.
As we celebrate the tradition of Thanksgiving, all Americans would do well to rededicate ourselves and our country to the traditional principles that gave birth to our nation; the God-given rights of freedom and liberty. Our Thanksgiving prayer should include the words Abraham Lincoln spoke nearly one hundred and fifty years ago on the battle field of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”