National Day of Thanksgiving

hp_first_thanksgiving_1From the beginning, our great nation had not forgotten where her strength, provision, and forgiveness came from. Long before Thanksgiving became a national holiday it was the practice of congress to call on the people of the United States to reflect upon the blessings from God and thank Him for his providential hand in their personal and national lives.

It goes without saying that George Washington issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789. Prior to his first thanksgiving proclamation, the Continental Congress directed the nation to humble herself before the Almighty God and express thanks for his providential hand of care.

It was Abraham Lincoln who would formalize the action of an annual Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in the autumn of 1863 serves as the general pattern for the modern day Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations and is regarded as the true beginning of the national Thanksgiving holiday. This resurrection of the Thanksgiving Proclamations is a tradition with a rich humble history.*

In addition to national Thanksgiving Proclamations, presidents have called the nation to days of fasting and humiliation before Almighty God. Jefferson Davis (1861) and John Adams (1798 and 1799) called for a Day of Fasting and Humiliation.*

Christian, don’t let the increasing secular day convince you that our history is not rich with the blessings of an Almighty God poured upon a nation submitting to His providential hand.

Never forget the blessed past struggles we have gone through and never forget where strength, hope, mercy and grace come from. The grace of the fear of God upon His church is a blessing to a nation who humbles herself before the Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth.

There is a more solemn past to this great day in our land than what it has become. When you gather with your church and family this next week consider reading this Thanksgiving Proclamation from the early days of our nation.


1778 By the United States in Congress assembled. A PROCLAMATION. It having pleased Almighty God, through the course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold mercies on the people of these United States; and it being the indispensable duty of all men gratefully to acknowledge their obligations to Him for benefits received: Resolved, That it be, and hereby is recommended to the legislative or executive authority of each of the said states, to appoint Wednesday, the 30th day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, that all the people may, with united hearts, on that day, express a just sense of his unmerited favors; particularly in that it hath pleased him, by his overruling providence, to support us in a just and necessary war, for the defense of our rights and liberties, by affording us seasonable supplies for our armies, by disposing the heart of a powerful monarch to enter into alliance with us, and aid our cause; by defeating the councils and evil designs of our enemies, and giving us victory over their troops; and, by the continuance of that union among these states, which, by his blessing, will be their future strength and glory. And it is further recommended, that, together with devout thanksgiving, may be joined a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior; so that, under the smiles of Heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our liberty and independence secured, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, our husbandry and manufactures encreased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good. And it is also recommended, that recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such a solemnity may be omitted on that day. Done in Congress, this 17th day of November, 1778, and in the third year of the independence of the United States of America.**

*Pilgrim Hall Museum
**Pilgrim Hall Museum – printed with original spelling
Photo credit: Pilgrim Hall Museum

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