On November 24, 2016, 85% of America will dine with families in homes or restaurants to celebrate the festive holiday of Thanksgiving Day. This holiday began as a reminder of the hardships and the struggles that the 102 Puritan refugees faced when first coming to a strange land called ‘The New World’ and how God rescued them. The pilgrims had faced famine, disease, and death from within the community due to a lack of crops and the climate that they weren’t prepared for. After many prayers being lifted up to God, so that He might help them in their need, Squanto, a Native American from the Pawtuxet tribe, came and taught them how to grow crops in the climate and soil of Northeastern America. Squanto also helped establish an alliance between the Puritan pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. The Wampanoag were willing to trade their crop seeds and labor for the Pilgrims goods such as guns and tea.
When they had reached harvest season and saw that the plenty that was produced, the Governor of the Puritan village, William Bradford, organized a feast between their Puritan village and the Wampanoag. Together, they gave thanks to God for the blessings God had given them and the friendships that had made in a strange land with the Natives. The Natives gladly joined them annually for the Thanksgiving service and dinner. For 200 years, American individuals would celebrate this feast with close ones, and some states would declare it a state holiday. New York delcared it to be a holiday worthy of commemoration so that they might find “God when in need and in plenty”. In 1863, President Lincoln recogized that a holiday such as this should be established nationally, so that we might 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.”
There have been many editions since the first Thanksgiving holiday in 1621. One example would be that the original Thanksgiving didn’t have any deserts due to the fact that the Pilgrims had not taken sugar with them to Plymouth rock and they were unable to grow sugar; so there was no pumpkin pie. Other well-known additions are the Thanksgiving parade and (my personal favorite addition) the NFL Thanksgiving game. One thing however remains constant since the first Thanksgiving feast: this national holiday began as a celebration for the good God had blessed us all with and it is a time to recognize our own ‘harvest season’ for the past year.
On Thanksgving Day, Americans will give a traditional prayer prior to eating, while being surrounded by friends and family. This is a beautiful moment to reflect on who God is, what He means to us, and how His presence was with us through all struggles and tribulations. The Lord has been good to us and we must honor Him for it. In Psalm 7:17 (ESV) it says, “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” It is a requirement for us as believers of Christ to thank God at all times, and the righteous name that He truly has. Let us rejoice and be thankful during this beautiful tradition that we get to participate in as residents of the United States and citizens of the Kingdom of God.
May the Lord be with you all, and have a Happy Thanksgiving! (Don’t burn the turkey!)
Soli Deo Gloria.