Do you really know why America celebrates Thanksgiving Day? I believe looking back on the 'why' helps us to appreciate the 'now.' So here are some basic beginnings of how Thanksgiving began.
A time for harvest
In the fall of 1621 the colonists of Plymouth held a celebration feast after their first harvest. Indian chiefs Squanto, Samoset and Massasoit joined in on the celebration along with ninety of their men during the three-day event.
On June 29, 1671 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the first recorded Thanksgiving was held. It was observed by proclamation from the town's council.
A time for prayer and fasting
In the 1700s, Thanksgiving was observed as a common practice for individual colonies each year.
Back then, a Thanksgiving day was set aside especially for prayer and fasting. It was not a custom marked by loads of food as it is today. In the 18th century each state would designate a day of thanksgiving either to honor a military victory, the adoption of a state constitution or a bountiful crop.
In December 1777, a Thanksgiving celebration was held to commemorate the surrender at Saratoga of British General Burgoyne.
A National Holiday
Then, on October 3, 1863, President Lincoln called for the observance of the fourth Tuesday of November to be a national holiday.
It wasn't until 1939 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November. The purpose was to extend the Christmas shopping season to boost the national economy. (Imagine that!) After much protest, Roosevelt changed the day again in 1941 to be observed the fourth Thursday in November. That is when we celebrate it today.
But did you know what George Washington proclaimed about the first General Thanksgiving Proclamation? He said:
"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 protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:" (Library of Congress)
Wow! Would that be written today in 2010? I doubt it!
God was the foundation of Thanksgiving. Did you notice in the proclamation that George Washington noted Thanksgiving was also a time for prayer. Even though there will be millions of Americans who don't pray or thank God on Thanksgiving day, you and I can still give Him the thanks and take time to pray. Let us remember what the foundation was for thanksgiving and not get caught up in the fast paced eating frenzy. Make it a memorable day in your family.
What's the harvest in your home in 2010? Since most of us don't gather the harvest physically, we still gather the harvest spirtually through the reading of God's word. What truths of God have you gathered as a family in 2010? What have you prayed for this year? What are you still praying for? Share it with your family. Make it a tradition at the dinner table. It will be something your family will treasure for years to come.
I'll end on this puritan prayer from "Valley of Vision."
May I live by Thee, live for Thee, never be satisfied with my Christian progress but as I resemble Christ; and may conformity to His principles, temper, and conduct grow hourly in my life. Let Thy unexampled love constrain me into holy obedience, and render my duty my delight. If others deem my faith folly, my meekness infirmity, my zeal madness, my hope delusion, my actions hypocrisy, may I rejoice to suffer for Thy name.