|"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe|
Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden (Netherlands)
For us Christians, thanksgiving is an everyday event that begins with a state of mind, an attitude. That’s also why the American Thanksgiving Day is not a church holiday. It’s actually a national holiday, even though the idea of giving thanks to God is a very Christian one. In a speech delivered in London at the annual banquet of the American Society on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1903, a prominent U.S. politician, William Jennings Bryan, stated that “On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.”
In other words, to the extent that it is right and good that Americans celebrate their Independence Day as the time when they gained release from tyranny, Thanksgiving Day is precisely the time when they recognize that all of the bounty they have is not merely, and perhaps not so much, the result of their own efforts and dedication, but also a gift to them from their Creator. That’s also the reason why this is one my favorite holidays, even though I’m not an American citizen—but definitely an American by philosophy!
Here are a couple excerpts from the above mentioned speech. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, Americans and non-Americans, men and women of goodwill!
On the Fourth of July the eagle seems a little larger than it does on any other day, and its scream may grate more harshly on the foreign ear than it does at any other time. But on this day we cultivate reverence and express our appreciation of those blessings that have come to our country without the thought or aid of Americans. We have reason to look with some degree of pride upon the achievement of the United States; we contemplate the present with satisfaction, and look to the future with hope; and yet on this occasion we may well remember that we are but building upon the foundations that have been laid for us. We did not create the fertile soil that is the basis of our agricultural greatness; the streams that drain and feed our valleys were not channeled by human hands. We did not fashion the climate that gives us the white cotton belt of the south, the yellow wheat belt of the north, and the central corn belt that joins the two and overlaps them both. We do not gather up the moisture and fix the date of the early and later rains; we did not hide away in the mountains the gold and the silver; we did not store in the earth the deposits of copper and of zinc; we did not create the measures of coal and the beds of iron. All these natural resources, which we have but commenced to develop, are the gift of Him before whom we bow in gratitude tonight.
We sometimes feel that we have a sort of proprietary interest in the principles of government set forth in the Declaration of Independence. That is a document which we have given to the world, and yet the principles set forth therein were not invented by an American. Thomas Jefferson expressed them in felicitous language and put them into permanent form, but the principles had been known before. The doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with inalienable rights, that governments were instituted amongst men to secure these rights, and that they derived their just power from the consent of the governed—this doctrine which stands four square with all the world was not conceived in the United States, it did not spring from the American mind—ay, it did not come so much from any mind as it was an emanation from the heart, and it had been in the hearts of men for ages. Before Columbus turned the prow of his ship toward the west on that eventful voyage, before the Barons wrested Magna Charta from King John—yes, before the Roman legions landed on the shores of this island—ay, before Homer sang—that sentiment had nestled in the heart of man, and nerved him to resist the oppressor. That sentiment was not even of human origin. Our own great Lincoln declared that it was God Himself who implanted in every human heart the love of liberty.