The Cause and Custom of the American Thanksgiving, Part 4

The humble, grateful spirit attendant to those celebrations was expressed in such statements as this by Theodore Roosevelt:

No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with the gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.”

shoppers-look-over-items-on-sale-at-a-macys-store-in-new-york-november-23-2012-black-friday-the-day-following-the-thanksgiving-day-holiday-has-traditionally-been-the-busiest-shopping-day-in-the-united-statesHowever, in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day up one week earlier than had been tradition, to appease merchants who wanted more time to feed the growing pre-Christmas consumer frenzy. Folding to congressional pressure two years later, Roosevelt signed a resolution returning Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November, as Congress in 1941 permanently set the fourth Thursday of each November as our national day of Thanksgiving.

13212055Roosevelt’s inclination to subsume Thanksgiving for commercial interests foretold much of the secular inversion of “thanksgiving” to come. In autumns we now exist amid the oppression of crass materialism in advance of that December day when we give thanks for the birth of Christ, oppression vastly different but somehow remarkably similar to that experienced by our Pilgrim forefathers in England. And, at all times we move amid the seduction of cultural decadence in our everyday lives, again remarkably similar to that tempting our Pilgrim forebears and their families in Holland. Nevertheless, for all the decay and dissolution assailing us, we are still at our core, a nation deeply blessed by God. In our age of great, widespread physical and material comfort, and sensory satiety and satiation, our deepest deficits are spiritual ones — most especially, a lack of accurate perception of the depth and breadth of the bounties that God alone has bestowed upon us. Too often, we look thanksgiving-mother-and-son-peeling-potatoes-19451to government as the provider and guarantor of the many blessings we enjoy, rather than to our Heavenly Father. And, also too often, we forget to gratefully cherish the best of our national blessings, that liberty for which our Pilgrim forebears were willing to risk all comfort and security. As Abraham Lincoln noted so many years ago,

“…[It is] announced in the Holy Scriptures 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.”

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