Thanksgiving: Part One

November 22, 1999

This week is Thanksgiving week, so I thought I might provide a number of commentaries that give the background and the history of Thanksgiving.

A day of Thanksgiving was set aside by the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony. This colony was the first permanent settlement in New England. Among the early Pilgrims was a group of Separatists who were members of a religious movement that broke from the Church of England during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1606 William Brewster led a group of Separatists to Leiden (in the Netherlands) to escape religious persecution in England. After living in Leiden for more than ten years, some members of the group voted to emigrate to America. The term Pilgrim was first used in the writings of colonist William Bradford and is now used to designate them.

So why did they celebrate Thanksgiving? Well, life was hard in the New World. Out of 103 Pilgrims, 51 of these died in the first terrible winter in the new world. After the first harvest was completed, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving and prayer. By 1623, a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of Thanksgiving because the rain came during their prayers. The custom prevailed in New England and eventually became a national holiday.

The state of New York adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom in 1817. By the time of the Civil War, many other states had done the same. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of Thanksgiving. Since then, each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation for the fourth Thursday of November.

This week we are going to be talking about Thanksgiving, and I trust you will do the same on Thanksgiving day. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk to you family about faith and thankfulness.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries.