Real Thanksgiving

the_first_thanksgiving_jean_louis_gerome_ferris.pngIn the United States we celebrate a holiday known as Thanksgiving. We have done this annually since President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of national thanksgiving to God. The date he set was in early October and our Canadian neighbors celebrate at this time, as well. Before Lincoln, 4 US Presidents declared days of national thanksgiving to God and, of course, at least 2 colonies declared festivals of thanksgiving.

The reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November is both sad and illustrative of how we currently perceive what was originally a ceremony to give thanks to God for Providentially sustaining the lives of colonists, bringing in a good crop and sending help in the form of native farmers who had been to England and knew the language to give aid. Originally celebrated in October to coincide with the end of the harvest, the date of Thanksgiving was moved to the fourth Thursday in November in 1939 (made permanent by Congress in 1941) in order to give a boost to Christmas sales for retailers still feeling the effects of the Great Depression. We are still dealing with the fallout of this decision, which appears to have been based more on a calculation of the political gains President Roosevelt hoped to make than anything else.

How many today, as they sit down to fine meals from God’s abundance will push away the thoughts of shopping on “Black Friday” in favor of remembrance of the sacrifices of those who came before? How many will put aside thoughts of football in remembrance of the blessings of God in providing the food, shelter and other things of our comparatively easy modern lives? How many thoughts will turn to those who are away from home serving our nation in the military (no matter what you may think of the current wars), giving thanks to God for their protection, imploring that His protection continue and that the wars end so the troops can come home?

No, we’re not talking about not watching football, eating the abundant blessing or planning your Christmas shopping. We’re just asking that you remember the true source of all of those good things and give thanks, real thanks, not some obligatory mumblings to some “higher power out there,” but real heartfelt thanks to Almighty God, His Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit for what they have done for us. We believe and pray that most of you will do these things. And we thank Almighty God for that.

Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless all of you and your families.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. 1Timothy 2:1-8 (NASB)

2 thoughts on “Real Thanksgiving”

  1. I thought that between Lincoln and Roosevelt, that Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November, not in October. Congress’ passed a law which was a compromise between what Roosevelt wanted (the second to last Thursday) and Abraham Lincoln’s last Thursday in November declaration. The reason for the November date was based on George Washington’s declaration in 1789 which was because of our defeat of the British at that time. I have heard of a 17th century Thanksgiving celebration in late July, but before reading this, I had never heard of an October date (except in Canada). I guess there is a lot confusion about this. Some encyclopedias are wrong.

  2. Matt,

    You win the “Stump the Blogger” prize. You are correct. My research on the dates for Thanksgiving was, shall we say, “off.” Off by about 30 days. Kind of inexcusable for someone who loves history like I do. Thanks for setting me straight! The first Thanksgiving was probably held at the end of October (but the end of September to the middle of November have also been suggested). This is probably what threw me, alongside working from memory (a no-no for history loving bloggers). FDR wanted to move the date back 2 weeks from the last Thursday in November (the date proclaimed by Lincoln and kept ’til ’39) but compromised. By the way, only 23 states went along with the change that year. Twenty-three others kept the traditional date and 2 kept both dates! In 1940 the date was changed by FDR again but 31 states kept the new date and 17 the old. Congress officially changed it to the current third Thursday in November in 1941.

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