The way we celebrate Thanksgiving in America has its roots in British Harvest Festivals and in American history. In 1620, a group of more than 100 Puritans fleeing religious persecution, settled in a town called Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims' first winter was so harsh that fewer than 50 of the group survived the season.
The next spring, Native Americans taught them how to get sap out of the maple trees and how to plant corn and other crops. The harvest was successful, and the Pilgrims had enough food for the winter. Plymouth Colony's Governor, William Bradford, decided to throw a Harvest Festival and invited the colony's Native neighbors to take part.
Historians believe that this celebration took place sometime in the fall, though there are very few clues to reconstruct the feast. All we really know about it come from a letter Edward Winslow wrote to a friend in England: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men fowling, that we might rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They in one day killed as much fowl as served the company almost a week. At which time with many of the Indians coming among us, for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor”.
It wasn't until two years later, after enduring a month’s long drought, that an actual Thanksgiving was celebrated. In response to the hot, dry summer months, the governor called for a fast. Soon afterward, rain revived the shriveled crops, and the Puritans celebrated. William Bradford issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation. This wasn’t a feast like the Harvest Festival of two years before. It was a church service.
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest, has spared us from pestilence and disease, and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, do gather at ye meeting house, on Thursday, November 29th, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings”. --William Bradford Ye Governor of Ye Colony
The custom of marking good fortune with a day of gratitude quickly caught on throughout New England. In 1789, President George Washington issued a Proclamation that called for a day of thanksgiving.
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed. -- George Washington - October 3, 1789
The idea of a national Thanksgiving Day didn’t catch on, but in the mid-1800s, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale mounted a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In support of a national Thanksgiving holiday, she wrote letters to five Presidents. Her initial letters failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote to Lincoln did convince him to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that the gracious gifts of the Most High God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. To set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union”. By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Each year since 1863 the president of the United States has issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Thanksgiving shouldn’t be a day, it should be a lifestyle. Philippians 4:4-6 tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.
For the Christian every day should be Thanksgiving Day. As a Christian, what is your Thanksgiving Proclamation? Here is mine.
There are many things I’m thankful for, but I am truly thankful for my family. We have instituted a new holiday at our house called ThanksChristmas. Because this year we were all together for the Thanksgiving holiday and weren’t able to be together for Christmas we combined the two. I think that the holidays blend together wonderfully. I will try to explain why.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God”. What causes Thanksgiving in God’s people? It is grace! I am so thankful for God’s grace, and for the gift of His Son that makes grace possible. When we celebrate Thanksgiving we should give thanks to God for grace.
When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus, but we are celebrating salvation. Matthew 1:21 says, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”.
Salvation comes only through Jesus and if Jesus had never come to this earth there would have been no salvation for you and me. There would never have been grace for you and me. There would have been nothing to cause Thanksgiving and there would be no Christmas.
Jesus is the reason for Thanksgiving. Jesus is the reason for Christmas. I think that ThanksChristmas is the perfect holiday.
I will close today with my ThanksChristmas Proclamation with a little help from George Washington.
WHEREAS, It is the duty of all people to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; Now, therefore, I do proclaim ThanksChristmas to be devoted by the people of my family to the service of that great and glorious God who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection. We are in awe of the marvelous grace that is offered to each one of us as God’s children, and are also astounded that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. We unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Almighty God and ask Him to pardon our transgressions. Richard Lawry
What is your Proclamation?