A Time for Thanks

Thanksgiving is in a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and thousands of years. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and celebration long before Europeans set foot on America’s shores.

When 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date, December 4, 1619, as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” Later, in November of 1621, the first corn harvest of the Pilgrim’s settlement was successful, so Governor William Bradford sent an invitation to their Native American allies to join them in a festival that lasted for three days.  The food was plentiful, there were games and entertainment, and much appreciation of the goodness of God for the abundance.  Many consider this the first “Thanksgiving” in the Americas.

Thanksgiving became an official holiday 1863 when Abraham Lincoln scheduled it for the final Thursday in November in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”  It was celebrated on that day every year thereafter.  However, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week to spur retail sales.  In 1941 he signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November. 

Each year there is a Presidential “Thanksgiving Day” Proclamation.  My son has started a family tradition of reading one of the proclamations before we say the prayer over our meal, and we try to guess which president wrote it!  (Click on the button below to see a list of presidential proclamations.)

In our culture today, Thanksgiving is lost between the commercialism of Halloween and Christmas. I find that very saddening. Being thankful to God (and others) is so important and something we should never neglect or lose sight of.  We are blessed beyond measure with both spiritual and material blessings.  As the recipient of these blessing, we need to be intentional about giving thanks and developing an attitude of gratitude.  However, we should not give thanks or be grateful just one day a year in November; we should be thankful and have a grateful attitude every day of our lives. 

This year, as we enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and all the surrounding festivities, let’s pause, reflect, and take the time to express to God and others our deepest thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving and Keep Going and Keep Growing

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving”

  1. Kathy, this was an interesting read. I agree Thanksgiving is more than good food and football. It is a time for celebration and thankfulness to the Lord for all of our blessings.

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