Do you know the history of Thanksgiving?
It’s difficult to sort out legend from reality in the history of Thanksgiving in the New World. For a review of Thanksgiving prior to the 1621 Pilgrim Thanksgiving, I found The True Thanksgiving Story to be helpful. Governor William Bradford’s widely distributed proclamation is great reading, but probably not an authentic 1623 document as claimed.
However, as the new country was formed, called the United States of America, the history of Thanksgiving is much clearer. George Washington issued a memorable Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. Some presidents ignored the idea, some embraced it with a variety of proclamations, but it was Abraham Lincoln who declared it an annual holiday with a proclamation in 1863. It only took congress 78 years to finally ratify it as a national holiday on the 4th Thursday of each November. A brief history of the holiday was recently published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
As you gather to give thanks this week, take time to review this history of Thanksgiving in America. Read one of the presidential thanksgiving proclamations, such as Washington in 1789 or Lincoln in 1863. Read a key Bible passage on Thanksgiving.
Can’t think of one? How about the short but powerful Psalm 100?
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.