Think You Know What Happened on Thanksgiving? You DO!

I thought we had escaped the holiday this year without the usual revisionist history lessons disguised as news reports but last night my local news carried a story about the confusion surrounding the ACTUAL events of the first Thanksgiving.

This reporter apparently subscribes to the scattershot method of journalism. He managed to report that the very first Thanksgiving probably happened two years earlier than the one in Plymouth and that it took place in Jamestown. He also interviewed a Native American who asserted that the settlers have no claim on the first anything on these shores. Native Americans were giving thanks for years before they arrived. The report continued to dispel the menu myths of the first Thanksgiving as if an expose on the non-existence of pumpkin pie might deter us from setting aside a day of gratitude.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. It’s an American holiday tradition. It seems that the further along in history we humans get the less we decide we actually know about what came before. While we make incredible advances in science, technology, communication and education, we seem to employ all this progress in the task of tearing apart recorded history and deciding we really have no clue what happened before our generation arrived on the planet. Americans, especially, have made this a favorite pastime – as if we looked at Communism and decided we didn’t like that whole sharing of resources of business but revising history and the art of propaganda could really come in handy – let’s keep those practices alive even after the walls come down and the curtain lifts.

The one useful fact this reporter quoted is that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. That sparked my interest. Knee deep in the Civil War and an American President declares a day of thanks. I looked up his proclamation. His words and intent for the American people on a national day of thanksgiving could not be clearer. If you’re up for feeling emotional, you can find them and read them yourself here:  Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

One singular quote from his proclamation is this: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Nothing unclear about that. Nothing about white settlers or Native Americans or turkeys or cranberry sauce. In the midst of a terrible, terrible war, Lincoln believed it to be in the best interest of the nation that all of her citizens everywhere should take a day to express thanksgiving and praise to our Father in Heaven. He didn’t pardon a turkey or host a multi-cultural state dinner. He took to his knees on behalf of the people he served and instructed them to do the same.

For the original participants of the holiday – whoever they were – as for those who followed suit in 1863 – the point of the day wasn’t the menu or the festivities or who was gathered at the table. The point was to offer thanks to God for all His blessings which can be found in the midst of any circumstance.

“Give thanks to Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 118: 29

Don’t fall prey to the propaganda. History happened. Truth exists and endures and can be found. God exists and He rewards those who earnestly seek him. He is involved in the affairs of humans and He is deserving of thanks on Thanksgiving and every day that follows.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. May God be present at your table.

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  1. Sarah says:

    love the article. Dare I venture to say that americans are drifting further from the study of history because they no longer teach history in the government schools. It has been replaced with social studies or the study of various groups as they operate within themselves. One can not study history in it’s true form without the acknowledgement that God is in control of all things. Don’t get me wrong, they study the pilgrims and the indians in school- the way indians lived- where the pilgrims came from and how they met with the indians but what of the writings of William Bradford, his correspondence with Robinson, Pierce, Carver and Weston. Children are taught that the Pilgrims sought freedom/ freedom of religion and that is all. They are not given any real literature to read- it is all fabricated. They should be reading the words of Bradford “the truth shall prevail, and the church of God revert to their ancient purity, and recover their primitive order, liberty and beauty” Of course this would not make any sense to someone who knows not of the persecutions that were taking place at the time. And one can not talk about the persecutions or the breaking away to the glory of God for the building of the kingdom of God without bringing religion into the matter. For that matter- when I was at RIC studying for my teaching degree- we were never even encouraged to look to the classics or historical non-fiction. History they say is taught from text books (as permitted by governmental standards). History from the time of Moses to the very present comes down to the Gospel. It is the cause of wars, the rise and fall of nations, the slaughter of millions. Men have tried to destroy it- Kings have made it their mission to remove it from the earth. But Gods truth has prevailed. And if we want his truth to prevail and his history to be known throughout the nations we should seek to not let our children learn from the textbook- they need to read real histories written by real people!!

  2. I wholeheartedly agree, Sarah. It’s been in teaching my own children that I have learned our true history and now I can’t imagine how history can be taught apart from the story of Christ and the church! I’ve been encouraging people at work to read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation and they are moved and amazed!

  3. Dorothy P says:

    As a “new” American, Lori, I haven’t been brought up with Thanksgiving as an annual event. When I was a child, we used to say prayers every morning in the hall before starting daily lessons. We were taught “New every morning is the love…” and we said thank you every day – every weekday, that is. Over the years I have become more and more disappointed with “religious” holidays – and that to me includes Thanksgiving – because, more and more they are becoming just excuses for stores to sell more goods. Perhaps working at Wal-Mart has jaundiced my view. So far as tomorrow is concerned I’ll help prepare the meal but I’ll keep saying thank you in the privacy of my bedroom before I start the day.