It is time once again for the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. It has traditionally been a time where we set aside our daily labors and give thanks to God for His abundant providence upon us. However in recent years, with the secularization of our society, questions have arisen as to whether Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday. Now, I think it would be remiss to say that Thanksgiving or the ability to give thanks is exclusive to Christianity. However the concept of giving thanks assumes a belief in God, for if you are not giving thanks to God, then whom are you giving thanks to? To give thanks to ourselves would be an extreme exercise in hubris.
We Americans have been taught since kindergarten that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth Ma. by the pilgrims. We have cute little plays with kids dressed up as native Americans and pilgrims in black and white outfits, and turkeys with all their feathers. However if you look at the historical record, other than the fact that the pilgrims gave thanks at every meal, this was not a day set aside to give thanks. It was a celebration of the harvest. The native Americans did not originally come to join in with their thanksgiving, but came armed with 93 braves and no women. When they saw that the pilgrims were not preparing for war, they then decided to join the festivities.
So even though our culture declares this the first Thanksgiving celebration, it was in fact, nothing more than a continuation of the English tradition of celebrating the harvest. It was not a Thanksgiving holiday.
The First Thanksgiving Proclamation
The first official Thanksgiving day proclamation was signed by the first President of the United States, George Washington. There were observances of a day of thanksgiving before this, but this was the first day of Thanksgiving officially designated by the new government of the United States. Listen to what is said in this proclamation.
George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
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 signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
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– 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 previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that 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– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–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 shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Is Thanksgiving A Christian Holiday?
If you listened and read along with those words, then the answer to that question is obvious. Can you imagine the field day that the ACLU and the Atheists would have with such a proclamation today? I highlighted many of the references to Christian doctrine stated in this proclamation. You would have to be dishonest to the text of the proclamation and dishonest with those around you to claim that Thanksgiving is anything other than a Christian holiday.
What I find interesting is that George Washington, who was one of the signers of the constitution, did not feel it a violation of the 1st ammendment to that constitution that he referenced, to include such blatantly Christian references and doctrines.
So you tell me, “Is Thanksgiving a Christian holiday”?