While millions of Americans look to Thanksgiving as a prelude to the Christmas holiday shopping rush, we are concerned too many Americans do not know the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday.
We also fear too many Americans do not know the history of Thanksgiving either.
Let us pause for a moment and remind ourselves of the history and true meaning of the holiday during this Thanksgiving season of 2020.
The first official thanksgiving was celebrated on Dec. 4, 1619, in the Virginia Colony, long before a revolutionary mood swept the eastern seaboard.
The Pilgrims set aside a day of thanksgiving to celebrate their first harvest at Plymouth in 1621, but it was not until the Revolutionary War that some residents of the colonies began celebrating a day of thanksgiving, though it was not an official holiday.
Gen. George Washington proclaimed a somewhat official Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga during the Revolution. The Continental Congress proclaimed annual Thanksgivings in December from 1777 to 1783, except in 1782.
In 1789 and again in 1795, Washington, as president of the United States, proclaimed Thanksgiving.
It was not until the Civil War, though, that Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday and celebrated each year in November.
The year was 1863.
President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving be celebrated on the next-to-last Thursday in November to give shoppers more time to spend money prior to Christmas. Roosevelt had acted in hopes of energizing the economy during the Great Depression.
Since 1939, Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the next-to-last Thursday in November.
The holiday has become a tradition of families gathering for a large meal, enjoying one another’s company and possibly watching a professional football game on television.
Yet, we are not certain the American people take the time to consider why we gather for Thanksgiving in the first place.
We gather simply to say “thanks” for the blessings God has bestowed upon all of us. And God has blessed each and every one of us whether we realize it or care to acknowledge Him.