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Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday that is celebrated on the

fourth Thursday in November. Giving thanks has long been a tradition

of our Judeo-Christian heritage. “Unto Thee, O God, do we give

thanks”, the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the “wonderous

works” of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from


Phippsburg, Maine, marks a 1607 Thanksgiving in Popham Colony -

Painting by GrangerIn accordance with this

tradition of thanks, a group of settlers arrived in Maine in 1607 and

held a service of thanks for their safe journey, and twelve years

later set aside a day of Thanksgiving for their survival. The most

well-known Thanksgiving occurred just a couple of years later in

Plymouth Colony in 1621.

Pilgrim Fathers painting Mayflower by Bernard GribbleIn September 1620, a ship named Mayflower

left from Plymouth, England carrying over one-hundred passengers.

These brave and resilient individuals were risking their lives in

pursuit of religious freedom and prosperity in the New World. The trip

was long and treacherous, it took over two months before they made

landfall near the tip of Cape Cod. Despite the challenging journey,

these settlers pushed onward and eventually crossed the Massachusetts

Bay and began working to establish what is now recognized as Plymouth


Shortly after this arrival, the settlers (now commonly referred to

as pilgrims) were forced to endure a brutal winter. This weather came

with such haste that most of the settlers had to live on their boat

where they suffered from exposure, scurvy, and disease. This

devastating winter killed nearly half of their population. 

When the snow started to melt in late March of 1621, the settlers

moved back to the land where they were greeted by a member of the

Abenaki tribe who spoke to them in English. Illustration depicting Squanto, serving as guide and interpreter

for the English Pilgrims at the Plymouth colony, circa 1621A few days later, the Native man returned

with another man named Squanto. Squanto showed the pilgrims how to

cultivate crops (mainly corn), fish the rivers, extract maple sap from

trees, and avoid poisonous plants.

In November of 1621, the first corn harvest proved bountiful, and

Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast for the

pilgrims and invited a group of their Native American allies. This

feast is known as the “First Thanksgiving”.

Then President George Washington penned these words to issue a

proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as

a national day of thanks:

Text of George Washington’s October 3, 1789 national Thanksgiving

Proclamation; as printed in The Providence Gazette and Country

Journal, on October 17, 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 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 and 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 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 has been pleased to confer upon


George Washington Portrait painted by John Parrot

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 to us), and to bless them with good governments, 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 one thousand

seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington
Signature of President George Washington

Since that first feast in November of 1621, Thanksgiving has been

an American tradition that continues its influence into our modern

era. Every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, we take time to

slow down and express gratitude for all that we have been bestowed.

We bow our heads and thank God for our

many blessings, friends, and families. We give thanks to our brave

veterans that keep us safe, we give thanks to our fellow citizens of

Oklahoma for helping make our communities strong, and we express our

gratitude because we have the privilege of living in the greatest

Nation in the history of mankind.

God Bless you all, and God Bless America.

For the People,

Nathan Dahm
OKGOP Chairman

Author: Frances Rice