A few months ago, I read an article about the textbooks used in some
public schools across America. I was particularly interested in the books
used in history and social studies classes. The article described one
textbook’s description of the first Thanksgiving. The author claimed that
the Pilgrims wanted to find a way to show their thanks to the native
Americans who had helped them learn how to hunt, fish and grow crops in
this new land. Ultimately, the author wrote, the Pilgrims realized that
they owed a debt a gratitude not only to their new friends but to the
animals whose meat they ate, the trees whose wood they used to build
shelter, and mother Earth for providing them with the tools they needed to
survive and prosper. This tradition, according to the author, continues
today and she challenged students to find ways of showing their thanks to
the earth for providing us with a home.
Some people may choose to lie and distort what really happened in the past
to fit their ideology, but they can’t change history. The first record of
a “Thanksgiving” occurred in 1619 when a group of English settlers near
Jamestown wrote in their charter a requirement to observe a day of
thanksgiving to God. We are probably more familiar with the 1621 Plymouth
celebration which followed the first successful harvest by the Pilgrims.
Edward Winslow was at that first Thanksgiving and wrote, “… although it be
not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness
of God, we are so far from want …”
Although Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until the
twentieth century, several days of thanksgiving were observed as early as
the Revolutionary War. In 1777, the Continental Congress declared December
18 as a day when people, “consecrate themselves to the service of their
Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments
and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold
sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor; and their humble and earnest
supplication that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ,
mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance …”
President George Washington, in declaring November 26, 1789, as a day of
thanksgiving, said it is the responsibility of every nation to “acknowledge
the providence of Almighty God”. Later presidents, including John Adams,
James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and many state governors continued the
tradition of selecting a day when people should acknowledge the Lord as the
source of all blessings.
In 1941, the U.S. Congress passed a bill officially declaring the fourth
Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. That bill was signed by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It is my hope and prayer that this year, we will take some time between
the turkey and the football games to thank God for the many blessings we
enjoy as a nation. Unfortunately, many people are like the people in the
Roman church criticized by Paul because, “… although they knew God, they
did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful …” (Romans 1:21). Instead,
we should “enter into His presence with thanksgiving…” (Psalm 95:2).
God bless you and have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.