A Brief History of the Thanksgiving Day Holiday


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Harvest festivals, in which thanks is given to a deity thought to be responsible for a good harvest are as old as farming, belief in one or more deities being even older than farming.

In the Book of Leviticus, God instructed Moses to require the Israelites to have an annual harvest celebration in which they gave both thanks and the first fruits of the harvest to God. It was in the spring, at the start of the new year because that is when the barley harvest came in.

It was part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins with the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan. Jesus fulfilled the Passover by being crucified that same day and due to his timely resurrection from the dead three days later on 16 Nisan, the day of the firstfruits offering, the Bible calls him "the Firstfruits from the Dead."

As Americans, we are more familiar with the three-day thanksgiving feast the pious Puritans celebrated in December, 1621 with the native Americans whose seeds and instruction saved the Puritans from totally perishing in their attempt to settle Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was unfortunately the too-early pinnacle of relations between Europeans and Native Americans.

In 1789, Congress asked George Washington to declare a national day of thanksgiving, which he did (November 26, 1789), and the nation celebrated. But, it was a sporadic event thereafter and not an annual proclamation.

That is, until the tireless 30-year efforts of Sarah Joseph Hale to petition president after president to proclaim a national Thanksgiving Day met a positive reception with Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War. On October 3, 1863 he made such a proclamation. What a dark time to proclaim a national Day of Thanksgiving to God! Therein lies a lesson.

Lincoln's proclamation came just before his November 1863 Gettysburg Address commemorating the July battle in which 60,000 Americans lost their lives. Lincoln later wrote, "When I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated my life to Christ." For a man that in October regarded God, as many did in those days, but without a personal consecration to Him, Lincoln's first Thanksgiving Day late in November 1863 took on a special meaning.

For the next 75 years Thanksgiving Day was an annual proclamation until Congress in 1941, in the middle of another great war, even a world war that would claim millions of lives, permanently established the 4th Thursday of November as a legal holiday known as a Day of Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgiving this year, eat all you want, share it in love with your family or those who have too little, watch some football or parades, relax and enjoy the day, but please be sure to give thanks to God, the source of love and all goodness and every good thing we have. He is our ultimate Provider and the source of our strength.
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Veteran member
Feb 2, 2012
Parker, CO
Thanks for sharing Dave! Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of the Eastmans forum family!!! Hope you all have a wonderful, blessed day!

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