Thanksgiving is only a week away for those of us in the United States where we celebrate an annual official day of giving thanks. So where did the idea of thanksgiving begin?
I’ll be touching this topic first from a Biblical/Scriptural stand point (which is global for all believers in Jesus Christ) and then from a historical perspective in the USA.
God does not give us one specific date of the year to give thanks. God actually tells us that HE desires that we give thanks to HIM everyday all day….thanks, praise, and gratitude to HIM, for HIM, with HIM for all the blessings HE has given us. And often this attitude of thanks involves telling others how thankful we are for them and all they are (remember who created each of us 🙂 ). Regardless of our circumstances, feelings, thoughts, emotions, health, finances, marriage, singleness, weight, race, sex, career, title, position, income, children or none, or anything else….God tells us to be thankful, grateful, appreciative, and praise HIM. We may not like our circumstances but if we are honest there is still SOMEthing for which we can thank God. It may take a little attitude adjustment on our part….but it’s there….some days it may be like a treasure hunt….but it is there.
So what does Scripture say? I am so glad you asked!! The word “Thanksgiving” occurs 28 times in 27 verses in the KJV. The word “thanks” occurs 73 times in 71 verses in the KJV. The word “thank” occurs 28 times in 27 verses in the KJV. The word “Praise” occurs 278 times in 213 verses in the KJV. I used www.blueletterbible.org to obtain this information. If you have been following the blog you have heard me say (from listening to bible based teaching ministers) that if the Lord says something once then it is important. If He says something twice…WAKE up and pay attention. If HE says something 3 times or more….IT IS VERY IMPORTANT and it is a call to action for each of us. Sooooooooo…… LOOK how many times he tells us/commands us/ encourages us to give thanks.
A few of my favorite Scriptures on giving thanks are:
1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (NIV) – “pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.”
Isn’t that interesting that in the midst of instructing us to give thanks Paul tells us DO NOT QUENCH the Spirit? We can actually quench the Spirit by not giving thanks. WHOA!! THAT is BIG!!
Philippians 4: 4-9 –“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. think about such things.”
What is interesting to me in my search of Scripture about thanks, thanksgiving, gratefulness, etc., another word that stood out to me was REJOICE.
Also words that stood out to me that were the OPPOSITE of this were anger, grumbling, and murmuring…..most interesting—eh?? Check out Phil 2: 14-16:
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain…”
Soooooooo…from a Scripture point of view, giving thanks is a very important command. He desires that we do it daily…without ceasing…in everything give thanks. I would LOVE to hear what words stood out to you concerning giving thanks. Taking time to give thanks, praise God for who HE is, praise God for Jesus, and SO much more and I bet if you are like me that HIS peace that passeth all understanding will engulf you.
In I know, for those of us in the USA, we have all heard about the Pilgrims and the Indians and the first Thanksgiving celebration since we were in grammar school. However, I was drawn to researching the subject of Thanksgiving from a historical perspective – in this research I learned that different States give different years as to when the first Thanksgiving was actually celebrated. Some states say it began with the Spaniards in the 16th century; some say it began in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1607; and others say it began in 1609 when the first colony in Jamestown, VA was settled. However, most of the research cited the Mayflower and its voyage. In September 1620, the Mayflower departed Plymouth, England with a total of 102 people. These people could be divided into two categories—those seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith; and those lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. Those people risked everything to come to this country. Their voyage was treacherous and their landing was far from what they had dreamed. Landing at near the tip of Cape Cod the weather was cold, nothing could be planted, and half of the people died from exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of contagious disease although they lived on the ship. During this time they crossed the Massachusetts Bay and slowly began establishing the village of Plymouth.
In the Spring of 1621 an Abenaki Indian greeted them in English and several days later he returned with another Native American, Squanto. Squanto was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. He had been kidnapped by an English sea captain, sold into slavery before escaping to London, and returned to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe. The alliance between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims endured for more than 50 years.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. This celebratory feast is now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving” although the Pilgrims and Indians did not know it as that title.
The Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.
For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. However it was not until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. What encouraged/inspired President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving?
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day; however, the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of every November until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt (with the encouragement of Macy’s Department store owner and founder) moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as “Franksgiving,” was met with passionate opposition.
On October 6, 1941, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the holiday beginning in 1942. However, in December of that year the Senate passed an amendment to the resolution that split the difference by requiring that Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, which was sometimes the last Thursday and sometimes (less frequently) the next to last. The amendment also passed the House, and on December 26, 1941 President Roosevelt signed this bill, for the first time making the date of Thanksgiving a matter of federal law and fixing the day as the fourth Thursday of November.
Regardless of whether you go with the 16th century, 1607, 1609, or 1621 as the “first thanksgiving” in the USA; the bottom line is that ALL of these people were grateful and felt lead to give thanks for what they had and where they were.
I am grateful that there is a national day of giving thanks in the USA. It is a day of family, a bounty of food (even if we are traveling and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), but most important it is another day when so many are encouraged to simply GIVE THANKS TO GOD….even if it is hard….even if it seems challenging. Placing ourselves in the posture of giving thanks to God, places us in a position to receive great peace and the blessings HE knows we need above all things.
Sharing HIS love and giving thanks for such a BIG God whose ways are higher than mine,