Wishing You & Yours a Happy Thanksgiving From the Green Bay News Network

Posted on 11-22-2023

One of the dearest-to-the-heart of all National Holidays, Thanksgiving Day, is This Thursday, November 23rd.

Setting aside time to give thanks for one’s blessings, along with holding feasts to celebrate a harvest, are both practices that long predate the European settlement of North America.

The first documented thanksgiving services in territory currently belonging to the United States were conducted by Spaniards and the French in the 16th century.  In 1565, the Spanish explorer, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his crew – along with several Spanish priests – came ashore at what is now known as St. Augustine, Florida. The priests offered a Mass of Thanksgiving for their safe journey, and a meal was then shared with the Seloy, a Native American people who were local to the area. The site of this first Thanksgiving Service is maintained today by the National Park Service.

Thanksgiving services were routine in what became the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607, with the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia holding a thanksgiving in 1610.  In 1619, the Berkeley Hundred colony held a service on December 4, 1619, to celebrate “the day of our ship’s arrival” and proclaimed the date would be “yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to the Almighty God.”  The colony was wiped out shortly after, in March 1622, with some inhabitants being massacred, and the rest fleeing. 

The generally referenced ‘First Thanksgiving’ occurred at Plymouth Colony, shortly after the colonists first successful harvest in autumn of 1621. They celebrated for three straight days with their Native American neighbors with whom they had signed a mutual protection treaty the Spring before.

In 1789, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution, and delivered it to President George Washington, asking him to “recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.”

President Washington made this first Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3rd, 1789 in New York City, after attending services at St. Paul’s Chapel:

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 shown 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 encrease 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, — George Washington

As you gather with Family and Friends, Please accept our heartfelt wishes for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving Weekend!

The Green Bay News Network