Most people view Thanksgiving as a holiday which celebrates the general goodness of life in America. It is a fall harvest festival that is not unlike our own Sukkot, thanking God for our bountiful blessings. We know that it was generally practiced while we were still just colonies, merging European harvest festivals with Native American festivals.
In October of 1789, President Washington declared that Thursday, November 26, be a day of national thanksgiving. Since November 26 isn’t always a Thursday, it would seem that this was meant to be a one-time celebration! So, what was the reason for a national celebration in 1789? No less than the completion and adoption of the Constitution of the United States. The new constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation and in 1789 our new government was seated, with George Washington as President. Although the shortest constitution among the modern nations, it has been the most enduring. It is right that we celebrate it.
BTW, after 1789 Thanksgiving went back to being a local celebration, being celebrated on various dates in various states according to local custom. It wasn’t until the Civil War that a unified national date was selected, President Lincoln believing that a common date for Thanksgiving would help to bring some unity to our divided nation.
Here in Carnegie we will hold services on Thanksgiving morning at 9:20. As originally intended we will take time to thank and praise God for bringing us to this great land and for giving us the good sense to write a Constitution that protects the life and liberty of each of our citizens. I will read President Washington’s original proclamation. After services we will share a light Kiddush. See you then.