How To Understand Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a joyous family festival enthusiastically celebrated by Americans and Canadians all over the world (although Canadians celebrate it on a different day and for different reasons). It is normally associated with a family dinner of turkey and "all the trimmings." It is a non-working holiday in the United States and Canada. As such, most kids nowadays identify it with school break rather than as an important celebration.

Some historical accounts cite the start of the celebration of Thanksgiving back as far as 1565 in the New World. The celebration of Thanksgiving Day in the United States can be traced back to November 1623, when the 1620 Pilgrim Colony’s Governor William Bradford ordered his constituents to gather all the harvest crops and be thankful for the blessings of the Lord. He based his order on the sermon of their pastor. It has since become an American Christian tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving Day after the harvest.

  • The Mayflower brought pilgrims from England to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Many of these pilgrims were not able to survive the harsh winter. They were only able to plant crops when the Native American Indians helped them. Because of that, the whole colony survived the following winter. This is the primary reason why the Governor ordered a Thanksgiving banquet to celebrate the bountiful harvest.
  • On November 1, 1777, the Congress of the United States proclaimed the first National Thanksgiving. Henry Laurens signed the bill. He was then the Continental Congress’ President. The third Thursday of December, 1777 was set aside as National Thanksgiving Day.
  • In January 1795, George Washington, the first president of the United States, wrote a National Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it, he stressed the importance of recognizing one's obligation to learn how to thank God for the blessings that He has bestowed throughout the year. He set Thursday, February 19, 1795 as a National Day of Thanksgiving.
  • Decades later, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated every year. It was through an Act of Congress that October 3, 1863 was assigned as such. In his proclamation, he reminded the people to give thanks to the Lord for His blessings. He noted how the Americans had forgot the Lord during times of plenty.
  • In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the celebration to the fourth Thursday of November in order to extend the Christmas shopping season. America was then recovering from the effects of the Great Depression.

At present, Thanksgiving Day is not quite as commercialized a holiday as Christmas. Everything seems to be centered on spending the whole day with the family. However, the preparations for the Thanksgiving dinner may take a toll on the family cook. To avoid this, some families make a potluck dinner instead. Assigning a specific dish to a family member coming over for dinner makes it easier to provide more food for a big party.

Although the ways in which Thanksgiving Day is celebrated has changed in modern times, everything is still centered on the very reason why Thanksgiving was started back in the olden time. That is, to thank the Lord for all the blessings that the family has received the whole year round.


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