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November 7, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

Thanksgiving Day is not far off as we begin the month of November.  It is another of those American holidays where we have multiple ways of celebrating with little awareness of what we are celebrating.  On the weekend of Thanksgiving some 46.3 million Americans are expected to travel fifty miles or more for the holiday.  The Friday following Thanksgiving 41 million shoppers are expected to hit the stores looking for holiday bargains.  Turkey sales are expected to hit 1.6 billion dollars in preparation for the holiday.  But what’s it all about?  There was a time when we knew.

Governor William Bradford called the Plymouth Colony to their meeting house on the hill on November 29, 1623 “to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings.”

On November 1, 1777 the Continental Congress issued a proclamation to set aside Thursday, December 18 for “solemn thanksgiving and praise.”  The reason given was, “It is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God, to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received …”

On October 3, 1789 George Washington proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving.  “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… Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States…”

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed on October 3, 1863 a National Day of Thanksgiving which was ratified by an act of Congress.  It included these words.  “I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…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 … [It is] announced in the Holy Scripture and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.”

In arguing the case of Zorach v. Clauson before the Supreme Court in 1952 Supreme Court Justice William Douglas had this to say.  “We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being…No constitutional requirement makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion or throw its weight against the efforts to widen the scope of religious influence.”

Finally, a quote from Harry S. Truman as he addressed congress on assuming office in 1945.  “At this moment I have in my heart a prayer.  As I have assumed my heavy duties, I humbly pray to Almighty God in the words of King Solomon, ‘Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?’  I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.”  Thanksgiving is a time for turning again to this Almighty God.

(Bill Scarle may be contacted at END-whs