The true meaning of Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving was November 26, 1789, and it was created by proclamation of George Washington in thanksgiving for the establishment of the new government of the United States of America. That day was to be devoted “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.”

The Continental Congress and its president were thankful for the new nation, but beyond that they also sought forgiveness.

Washington’s proclamation said the nation was to “beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” These are the words of a general who led troops in battle. He knew the price of the peace enjoyed by the new nation.

We did not get a national day of thanksgiving as an annual event until the country was in the midst of the Civil War. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the national holiday. It was this document that inaugurated Thanksgiving, though not as we know it now. That proclamation, written by Secretary of State William Seward and signed by Lincoln, called for prayers for forgiveness as well as thanks.


Beyond the myth of the first Thanksgiving being a noble feast, we find a nation whose great leaders acknowledge both God’s gifts and our own shortcomings.

The author is The Rev. Frank Logue is the vicar of King of Peace, Kingsland, Georgia. Read it all in ELO.

Remember, too, it took the Pilgrims a while to adopt an institution that harnessed their self interest and served each other.

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