In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a Thursday in November as officially “Thanksgiving.” In his short proclamation he used the expression “Almighty God” and referred to “his will” “his benefits” and to “his protection, aid and favors.” The day is to be “devoted… 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, and for all the great and various favors which he has been pleased to confer us.”
I think for the most part we have maintained the original soul of Thanksgiving. It is a day of thanks and I haven’t seen it balloon into an orgy of gift-giving like we see in December. What has changed, in my world, is the idea that “God” should be seen as “he.” Decades ago my daughter-in-law asked me why I was so sure that God was a “he.” I had been taught (indoctrinated is a better word) that way of thinking. I started hearing the expression “Goddess” and realized how closed-minded it was to think of the Almighty as only being male. Then one night I heard a black radio broadcaster in San Francisco. His joyful reference to God went something like this, “the big beautiful black woman in the sky.” Why not? Many cultures past and present see deity as female. I think we do our children a favor by acknowledging that both male and female represent Glorious Power and Influence. Today, a growing number of Americans find their enlightenment and awe in science and nature and forego any reference to God or religion.
My favorite is Native Americans who during Colonial times couldn’t understand Colonists’ in-your-face attitude about religion. Their belief was a relationship with the Almighty was a personal one and was no one else’s business. I liked that. What a better world we would have if we accepted that there are as many ways to be thankful as there are to be in awe of something that is bigger than us all.
Here is the entire George Washington Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789:
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, aid and favors…. 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, and for all the great and various favors which he
has been pleased to confer us.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:
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