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Friday, November 26, 2010

Is Thanksgiving A Religious Holiday?

In recent years, people have pointed to Thanksgiving as a joyous holiday that all Americans can celebrate together, as one regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. And this is true. It is a holiday for all Americans.
But this fact does not necessarily make Thanksgiving a secular holiday -- far from it.
Indeed, Brian Burch of Catholic Vote has pointed out to us that Thanksgiving was explicitly created as religious in nature. Here's how he puts it:
Thanksgiving is much more than turkey, stuffing, and football (as good as those things are!).
Unlike other secular holidays like Labor Day or the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving is a national holiday that is explicitly religious in nature. As a nation of faith, we have set aside this day to thank our Lord for the many blessings He has bestowed.
In 1789, in his first year in office, President George Washington called for a day of Thanksgiving because “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.”
In 1815, President James Madison issued a proclamation for “a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness.” 
After Madison, however, Thanksgiving reverted to a regional celebration in New England for 48 years. 
So in 1863, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale petitioned the Lincoln administration that a day of Thanksgiving "now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution."  
Lincoln called on Americans that year to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore if, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”
This is something that's worth remembering this Thanksgiving weekend.

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