Thanksgiving! And, to Whom?

Delta Bohemian Poor William Billy Howell giving thanks.

Delta Bohemian Poor William Billy Howell thankful and hongri.

By Poor William

(Clarksdale, Mississippi)

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God…’”

“…Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, 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…  — George Washington, October 3, 1789

The origin(s) of Thanksgiving are multitudinous:

In 1541, Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and 1,500 of his men had a thanksgiving celebration near Amarillo, Texas, in Palo Duro Canyon, where Poor William consistently and unceremoniously fell off his mountain bike when he lived in New Mexico.

French Huguenot’s celebrated with a thanksgiving service in 1564, near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. 1607 found English settlers having a harvest feast and prayer meeting along with Abnaki Indians on Maine’s Kennebec River.

In 1619, English settlers in Charles City, Virginia observed the settlement’s charter requiring that the day of their arrival be observed yearly as a day set apart for thanksgiving to God: “We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Spanish, French, and English settlers all observed religious thanksgiving services prior to the much heralded “first” Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621 at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. However, Governor Bradford officially proclaimed the first Thanksgiving in the autumn of 1623, specifically to thank and praise God for the end of a drought.

Three days in July 1863 saw around 50,000 casualties between the North and the South at the battle of Gettysburg. Three months later, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving, passed by an Act of Congress: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come…”

Our country’s past is rife with evidence of original thankfulness directed at the Judeo-Christian God recognized as at the center of our nation’s founding. Most things, including cultures, celebrations, institutions and people change, transmogrify, and adapt over time, but regarding Thanksgiving and original intent, it is good for Judeo-Christians to remember Who was being thanked, and it doesn’t hurt for those who don’t believe in God to be reminded to Whom our forefathers and foremothers looked to with gratitude! And all God’s people said, “Amen;” and hopefully, those who do not know Him will at least say, “Hmmm?”


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