The first Thanksgiving celebration occurred in 1621 when colonists from Plymouth and their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians, shared in a three-day celebration that consisted of various activities following the colony experiencing their first successful harvest. The celebration was a joyful time the colonists experienced many of those among them die in their first year in America. It is this celebration that is recognized as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.
The days of thanksgiving were celebrated for more than two centuries by numerous individual colonies and states following the first celebration. It was during this time that a newspaper editor took it upon herself to see Thanksgiving become a national holiday. As a result, she wrote letters to the various governors encouraging them of the necessity to celebrate a day of thanksgiving.
The editors dream became real when President Abraham Lincoln came thought that having a Thanksgiving holiday would serve as a way to unify the American people. Thus, he declared through a proclamation declaring a celebration of Thanksgiving an official holiday in the United States to be held on the last Thursday of each November during the Civil War in 1863.
If you desire to explore more about the history of Thanksgiving, the History Channels maintains articles, videos, pictures, and interactives online provides a more comprehensive history of Thanksgiving.
Those that participated in a day of thanksgiving had many reasons to celebrate. There were many European settlers focus their celebration on religious activities.
This is not a startling aspect about the European settlers given their circumstances. Thanksgiving is certainly a religious holiday founded upon a Judeo-Christian tradition. The settlers migrated to America due to the religious persecution they were experiencing in Europe. It is thought that the Pilgrims could have seen a connection between them leaving for America to the Jewish people’s Exodus.
They desired to find somewhere new where that would afford them the religious liberty to practice their religious activities as they wished. The first Thanksgiving holiday took place as soon as possible given that the settlement’s charter required a commemoration of thanksgiving to God. It is believed that the thought of such a celebration was a result of the Pilgrims being well studied in the Bible which inspired the idea of a feast based on the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles.
I wanted to provide a short historical primer about Thanksgiving to help our remembrance of its importance. I believe that it is imperative for Christians to remember the significance of Thanksgiving given our call to proclaim an offering of thanksgiving for all things in glorifying His name.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 50:14, ESV)
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18, ESV).
proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds (Psalm 26:7, ESV).
In celebrating Thanksgiving, I am going to be intentional about being in His presence and declaring the things I am thankful for in words and actions.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:2, ESV)
There are numerous things that I am currently thankful for. I am extremely grateful for the various relationships I have been blessed with. I am grateful for the love and support of friends, family, and certainly for all the faculty, staff, and students I have had the pleasure to get to know at Talbot School of Theology. And there is no doubt that I am thankful about graduating in December.
There is certainly much for me to be grateful and excited about this month. However, I know that there are many people that I may know or do not know that are currently quietly going through more than we know due to spiritual warfare and/or hardships.
This time of year can be hard for many people. We are called as Christians to keep
everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).
It is my desire to keep people in prayer. If you would like me to keep you in prayer, please feel free to contact me. All requests will be kept private.
- History Channel, History of Thanksgiving, A&E Television Networks, LLC, 2015.
- Father William Saunders, Thanksgiving, Arlington Catholic Herald, 2003.