What Makes American Thanksgiving Different?

Lincoln Memorial_banner

Not thankfulness for Mother Nature’s bounty or the camaraderie of Friendsgiving, the very name—Thanksgiving Day—affirms that Americans acknowledge a Benefactor to Whom our thanks is owed.

Early American presidents among others identified that benefactor as the Almighty God. President George Washington declared the first National Day of Thanksgiving commemorated on Thursday, November 26, 1789,

“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.” (1)

Presidents John Adams and James Madison issued similar proclamations. Abraham Lincoln made the holiday a permanent national observance 74 years later. In Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving issued on October 3, 1863, his purpose for the day was clearly articulated.

“to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (2)

What the Founding Fathers incorporated into civic life of the United States of America, however, is actually a model patterned after what King David observed in ancient Israel.

“David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord:

‘Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!’” (1 Chr. 16:7-8)

David understood the importance of uniting as a nation to thank the Sovereign of creation. When we celebrate as the forefathers intended, authentic thanksgiving is worship of the Sovereign of Creation.

Thanksgiving Day is the annual opportunity when we collectively unite as a nation for the express purpose of thanking God. Like the Founding Fathers, people of faith who embrace the Judeo-Christian values our nation was founded upon must determine to publicly: 

  • Acknowledge God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Col. 1:16).
  • Proclaim that people are uniquely created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27-28).
  • Communicate that every breath we breathe, all our possessions and the ability to enjoy life are gifts from God (Eccl. 2:24).
  • Share about God’s goodness; and then, praise and thank Him (Ps. 96:2).

Begin now to prepare your heart for Thanksgiving Day. It is the spiritual component that makes American Thanksgiving unique. Make God who is the Benefactor of all we enjoy in life the focus of your Thanksgiving celebration this year.

1) T.K. Byron Ph.D., “Thanksgiving,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon website.
2) Abraham Lincoln Speeches and Writings, Abraham Lincoln online archive.

1) George Washington’s October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. (Photo credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Public domain/Wikimedia/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
2) Mount Rushmore. (Photo credit: Pixabay/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
3) The Lincoln Memorial, detail. (Photo credit: Pixabay/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)

Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken. Repost/Reprint with permission. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Rev. Charles E. McCracken. Biblically Authentic - Standing with Israel.

Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken’s presentations have relevance for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.


2 replies »


    • “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation! Selah”

      Happy Thanksgiving, Melissa and greetings to all in the extended family we are blessed to know!