It was just a typical Thanksgiving Day for our family when I was a kid.
We didn’t have a TV, so we couldn’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The Dallas Cowboys weren’t playing a football game. The Dallas Cowboys hadn’t been invented yet.
People were staying home with their families for a special meal. They weren’t trying to be first in line for Thanksgiving Day specials at Walmart. Walmart hadn’t been invented yet.
And Black Friday? If someone had mentioned that, people would have wondered what was wrong with them.
We lived in Ennis, Texas, just a few blocks from my grandparents. Granddad Layton had a small grocery store. That was really handy when you needed something – especially on a holiday.
I liked our menu on Thanksgiving Day: turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie … all that good stuff.
As mother was preparing the meal that morning, she realized she didn’t have any cranberry sauce. Granddad and Mama Dee were already over at the house visiting and helping prepare lunch. He went back to the store and picked up a can of cranberry sauce. I was glad because I really like cranberry sauce!
A little later, we sat down and ate a delicious Thanksgiving meal. After dessert when we were carrying the dishes to the sink and putting the food up, Mother saw the can of cranberry sauce. It was sitting unopened on the counter! We had all forgotten about it.
Well, we survived our Thanksgiving Day meal without cranberry sauce. But we didn’t survive Thanksgiving Day without giving thanks, and there was so much for which to be thankful.
Our nation has a long and magnificent Thanksgiving Day heritage.
The first Thanksgiving Day was on June 20, 1676, when the governing council of Charleston, Mass., instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving.
On March 16, 1776, John Hancock and the Continental Congress proclaimed the first United Colonies Thanksgiving Day to take place May 14, 1776. Although it was a day of thanksgiving, it was also a day of confession in the manner of 2 Chronicles 7:14.
In part, the proclamation called on citizens “publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him… that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness. …”
Other presidents of the Continental Congress – Henry Laurens, John Jay and Samuel Huntington – issued thanksgiving proclamations.
When Washington achieved his victory at Yorktown, Thomas McKean, president of the United States in Congress Assembled, issued a thanksgiving proclamation.
President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, as a day “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.”
President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for Thanksgiving Day to be the last Thursday of November. His proclamation, in speaking about the abundant blessings of the people, said, “They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
During the days of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a thanksgiving proclamation saying, “I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do set aside and appoint Thursday, the thirtieth day of November 1933, to be a Day of Thanksgiving for all our people. May we on that day in our churches and in our homes give humble thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us during the year past by Almighty God.”
All of these proclamations have a common thread: We are dependent on Almighty God; our blessings come from him; we need to thank him for these blessings – and we need to ask him to forgive our sins.
It was the Psalmist who said, “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1).
More than just having a Thanksgiving Day, may we have a heart of thanksgiving every day.
Kenneth Mills is a deacon and former preacher.