Thanksgiving In Our Heritage

Giving thanks is a long standing practice in America and Canada. It was preceded by the harvest-home celebration in England. Even that was preceded by the ancient Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

The first Thanksgiving in America was religious in nature and didn’t involve feasting. December 4, 1619, a group of 38 British settlers at Berkeley Plantation on the James River engaged in a day of giving thanks, prayer, and worship.

Nearly a year later the Plymouth colony settled on these shores. Their first winter in Massachusetts was devastating. Nearly half of their number suffered and died in the harsh weather. The summer of 1621 resulted in bumper crops.

That fall Governor Bradford declared a day of feasting and giving thanks to God for His blessings on the colony. The day lasted three days. About 90 Wampanoag Indians added five deer to the menu of corn, wheat, barley, peas, clams, eel and other fish, leeks and plums. This practice was followed the next several years.

The other New England colonies followed the practice. During the Revolutionary War eight special days of thanksgiving followed significant developments in the war. President George Washington, in 1789, declared November 26, a day of giving thanks to the All Mighty. In 1839, New York became the first northern state to have an official state Thanksgiving. Other Northern states followed immediately. In 1855, Virginia was the first Southern state to have such a day.

Encouraged by the persistent Sarah Josepha Hale, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863, “a day of thanksgiving and praise to the beneficent Father.” For the next 75 years each president proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In 1941 Congress formerly established the fourth Thursday of November as the official national Thanksgiving Day.

Now what?
Thanks are expressed by someone, to someone, about something. Let’s each be one to express thanks. There is much for which to be thankful.

Some schools teach the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Native Americans for their help. Not so. It was to All Mighty God. When you pause to give thanks be more mindful of the One to whom you are speaking than of the thing about which we are giving thanks.

Do yourself a favor. Make a list of things for which you are thankful. Even those among us who have significant difficulties there are many things for which to express thanks.

Captain Kangaroo taught generations the two magic words of please and thank you. A lot of folks have forgotten them. Rarely are they heard. Not only are they rarely heard by people but by the God of all blessings. Make giving thanks a life style. As you do you will become increasingly aware of the many things for which you have cause to be thankful. This is a matchless way of training yourself to be a more positive person.

Don’t forget to give thanks to the God of every good and perfect gift. He inhabits the praise of His people. Make your life His habitat.