Thanksgiving…A day set apart to give thanks for our many blessings. I love this time of year. I love the crisp cool air; the smell of cinnamon and apples; the fall colors; and everything pumpkin.
Next week we will gather with family members to celebrate this wonderful holiday. We will eat till we explode and fall asleep on the couch watching football. We do this every year, after all it’s tradition.
This morning I was thinking “how did this tradition really get started?” We hear about the pilgrims coming to Plymouth Rock and making peace with the Indians and having a feast to celebrate (I believe a turkey was involved). Well, that’s how I remember it in elementary school anyway. So my curiosity sent me to Google (I Google everything), and this is what I found:
Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington. It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader holiday season.
Now, I don’t remember any of that taught in school. That doesn’t mean they didn’t teach it, I just don’t remember that version. The following is what I remember:
The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and — as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow — it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings” — days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.
Google lead me to so much history and information on Thanksgiving that it would take a college course to get through it all and I don’t want to bore you with so much information. If you want more information you can Google it yourself. There is one more piece of history that I want to share:
Early thanksgiving observances
Setting aside time to give thanks for one’s blessings, along with holding feasts to celebrate a harvest, are both practices that long predate the European settlement of North America. According to historian James Baker, debates over where any “first Thanksgiving” took place on modern American territory are a “tempest in a beanpot”.
So, my fellow Americans, when we gather next week around that table filled with amazing food, let’s count our many blessings. God has given us a great country. He has allowed Pilgrims to come over to this wonderful land and be free to worship Him. Enjoy time with your family and Happy Thanksgiving.