History of Thanksgiving

History of Thanksgiving

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chron. 16:34).

Thanksgiving Celebration is a time to focus on God. It dates back almost 4 centuries in America. Such celebrations occurred as early as 1607 at Cape Henry, Va. Our current tradition of Thanksgiving came to us from the Pilgrims.

Sailing from England on Sept. 6, 1620, the Pilgrims spent two months braving the harsh elements of a storm-tossed sea. After finally landing on shore at Plymouth Rock, they held a prayer service and began building shelters.

Nothing prepared them for the bitter winter ahead. Before Spring time, half of them were already dead. Yet through perseverance in prayer and the help of neighboring Indians, they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer.

In the fall of 1621, the grateful Pilgrims declared a 3-day feast to thank God and celebrate with their Native American friends. America’s first Thanksgiving festival began an annual tradition that slowly spread to other New England colonies.

The first Nationally recognized Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1789 on September 25. After approving the Bill of Rights, Mr. Elias Boudinot said he could not think of letting the congressional session end without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining with one voice in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings He had poured down upon them.”

Mr. Elias then moved that the following resolution be delivered to President George Washington: “Resolved, that a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…”

Mr. Roger Sherman justified the practice of thanksgiving not only as a praiseworthy one in itself but also warranted by a number of precedents in Holy Writ…this example he thought worthy of a Christian imitation on the present occasion. And the President heartily concurred with this congressional request declaring this:

“Whereas 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 protections and favor…Now therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789…that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”

Most official Thanksgiving observances still occurred only at the state level. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln responded by setting aside the last Thursday of November, declaring:

“We often forget the Source from which the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies come…No human wisdom hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…I therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States…to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.”

For the next 75 years, Presidents followed Lincoln’s precedent, annually declaring a national Thanksgiving Day. Then in 1941, Congress permanently established the 4th Thursday of each November as a national holiday.

Thanksgiving is not just an American Day…not just a national day…not just 1 day. Thanksgiving is a Christian lifestyle. It is an attitude of a Christ follower. It is something we choose to live – a LIFE OF THANKSGIVING! sbb