News Articles


McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Thank you. Two words that indicate recognition and express appreciation of a kindness received from a source outside of ourselves. Thus it was in 1621 that the Pilgrims took time out from the busy task of survival to offer a “thank you” to the ultimate outside source — God.

While I am sure they were appreciative to the natives who had befriended them, the first English settlers — in what would come to be known as America — paused for several days of feasting, reflection and prayer dedicated to God. They celebrated his goodness, they remembered his faithfulness and they expressed with their lips a harmonious “thank you.”

Despite the best efforts of some to paint the first thanksgiving with a politically correct brush, the Indians were not the focus of the Pilgrims’ gratitude. The Native Americans were included in the feast and recognized for their assistance to be sure, but it was God who was supremely “thanked.” The fruits of the earth were enjoyed, but Mother Nature was never mentioned during the days of thanksgiving.

In a letter dated Dec. 12, 1621, Edward Winslow described the Pilgrims’ three days of celebration. One phrase in the letter — sprinkled with references and praise to God — is most poignant. It reads, “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

In the 381 years since that first “thanksgiving,” our nation has many times followed the example set by the Pilgrims. In 1777 the Continental Congress declared December 18 to be a national “day of solemn Thanksgiving and praise” in response to a victory during the revolution. George Washington proclaimed Nov. 26, 1789 to be “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 the Almighty…”

It was Abraham Lincoln who, in 1863, proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a national Thanksgiving Day for a year full of blessings. In the proclamation the president wrote: “The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Each of Lincoln’s successors followed his lead and proclaimed Thanksgiving Day the final Thursday in November. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. Thus, following in the noble example of the Pilgrims, America has sought to honor God annually with a day of Thanksgiving.

In the past four decades, there has been a concerted effort to expunge any reference to God from public life. Prayer in school, the Pledge of Allegiance and displays of the Ten Commandments have raised the ire of those who are “offended” by any utterance of God’s name in connection with a government facility. Given time, Thanksgiving and Christmas will join the “hit list.” These holidays, dedicated wholly to the worship of a particular deity, will be forced to conform to sterile politically correct standards or they too will be vehemently attacked.

Before the meaning of Thanksgiving is neutered and the reality of Christmas is castrated, may those who care about the heritage of our nation consider the words of President John Adams, who wrote: “[T]hat [the citizen] shall call to mind our numerous offenses against the Most High God, confess them before him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of his Holy Spirit we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come…” (Thanksgiving Proclamation — March 6, 1799).
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

    About the Author

  • Kelly Boggs