Is Thanksgiving a part of our Christian History and Heritage?
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” - 1st Thessalonians 5:16
The tradition of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings dates back almost four centuries in America. While such celebrations occurred in North America as early as 1541, it is from the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving.
Having survived their first winter (during which about half of them died) in America, the Pilgrims reaped a bountiful harvest the next summer. As one of them wrote, “God be praised, we had a good increase of corn”; “by the goodness of God, we are far from want.”
Consequently, they declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God. They invited their local Indian friends to join with them in several days of religious activities, feasting, and athletic competition.
This began an annual tradition—America's First Thanksgiving Festival in the New England Colonies that slowly spread into other Colonies.
The first federal Thanksgiving proclamation was issued by President George Washington in 1789.
Why would he issue that proclamation?
He explained: "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."
Over the next 80 years, national thanksgiving celebrations occurred only sporadically, although they were still celebrated annually across New England.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a national Thanksgiving proclamation.
It was Abraham Lincoln, who said he was converted to Christ while walking in the midst of the graves at Gettysburg, that proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving for November 26, 1863.
For 75 years following, annual Thanksgiving Days were proclaimed by every President. Franklin Delanoe Roosevelt, in 1939, moved Thanksgiving one week earlier than the last in November out of pressure from merchants who wanted more time for Christmas.
Congress, however, in 1941, disagreed, moving it back, permanently setting the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." - Psalm 92:1
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year with your family and friends, take time to reflect on all the reasons you have to be truly thankful – take time to thank God and specifically recall to Him some of His many blessings on us. You might even outline your prayer to Him by the four items George Washington mentioned in his Thanksgiving proclamation:
Acknowledge the providence of Almighty God;
Obey His will;
Be grateful for His benefits; and
Humbly implore His protection and favor.
You can also share with others the history of and the reason for this great holiday.
Join us as we give thanks unto the Lord and Celebrate His goodness and His gospel to the watching world.
WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR? HOW ARE YOU GIVING THANKS IN EVERYTHING?
We’d love to hear your stories! Let us know in the comments below.
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