The Thanksgiving Tradition
And Why We Should Revere It
When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of the feast—the smells, the food we usually include, the family gathered to share it. We think of previous Thanksgivings and who we were with, where and how we celebrated.
We recall with laughter for the joyful times, and shed a few tears for the sad ones or at the memories of those who are no longer with us. We remember.
We remember, and we share those memories with those who are with us now. Our words have a powerful impact on us and on others. We feel a powerful emotional reaction.
We know words have power—those we speak and those we hear. But words that ignite truths, like the traditions of Thanksgiving and what the holiday really means… those words are infused with ability to change lives, to open closed minds and hearts, and to offer fresh and different perspectives that can benefit us not just for the moment, but for the rest of our lives.
These words can be just what’s needed for us to see things more clearly or to set aglow the proverbial light bulb in our minds. We can “see the light!”
Think about it. That’s a gift. And it on its own is worth our gratitude. But in experiencing traditions and grasping the real meaning of Thanksgiving, we gain so much more. We gain awareness. We come to really understand how important it is that we seek to understand people.
With those insights, we shape identity—others and our own—and with that collective wisdom, we define, comprehend, and eventually come to appreciate the treasures found in tradition.
Why is tradition important?
Because in what we learn from those who came before us gives us a firm hold and appreciation for who we were, why we were as we were, and that gives us a foundation to measure who we are and who we choose to become. That knowledge solves a lot of conflicts, potential crises, and strengthens our appreciation for our heritage, our culture. It also strengthens our sense of self—as individuals and as a nation.
What can we learn about Thanksgiving? What in this tradition is specifically significant to us today?
To answer those questions, we must ask: What does the Thanksgiving tradition mean?
Time typically confuses things, and right now we’ve an abundance of confusion. Many say we’re neck-deep in a national identity crisis. So rather than discuss the confusion, let’s call on the wisdom of truth. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with it—unfiltered—by returning to the man who officially established our nation’s Thanksgiving holiday tradition.
In 1789, on Thanksgiving Day, George Washington issued the following Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, beginning a tradition in the United States of America that is celebrated still today.
Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
“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 – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States 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 – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
“Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
By his own words, we see the true meaning of Thanksgiving. We gain insight. We find its truth. We rediscover the value in tradition. The wisdom of knowing our history. In all this, we see the mark of character, and individually we choose to shun or embrace it, deciding who we are, and who we will become.
May the traditional spirit of Thanksgiving be a blessing to you and yours. And in times that try souls and make us weary, may we remember to hold fast to our traditions—our identity—and embrace them with attitudes of gratitude. Because, for all our flaws and challenges, ours is an exceptional nation of exceptional people. We might lose our way at times and we forget who we are. Others might encourage that. But we have the treasures of our traditions and their true meanings to remind us.
This Thanksgiving, may we recall who we are, whose we are, why we are who we are, and may we fully realize the value of knowing who we wish to become.*
© 2015, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Bride, Shadow Watchers, Book 1. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.
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