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Thanksgiving Day, A Necessary Reminder

Updated on November 26, 2020
Thanksgiving Service 2012 - Faith Community Church
Thanksgiving Service 2012 - Faith Community Church | Source

The importance of Thanksgiving Day

Even though much has been said about the particular holiday we celebrate on the last Thursday of November, yet, this particular holiday seems to be getting short shrift lately as the Christmas promotions start earlier every year, even before Halloween begins. Then, if it is kept at all, Thanksgiving Day is turned into a time of feasting and family, watching the parade and football games, and little is done in the way of actually giving thanks, which was the original purpose of the holiday. I remember that in our family, we always used to have to list the things we were thankful for and then my Dad always gave a long prayer of thanks before we ate. There was also usually a church service either the night before or in the afternoon, in which everyone was encouraged to tell what they were thankful for. For more on my own Spiritual background see the next casual immediately below. Then, check out the historical background and history of the holiday, starting with pre-American thanksgiving celebrations, then the background of the Puritans, the history of the Plymouth colony and how Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday. Then, last but by no means least--in fact most importantly of all--please read my article on "The Power of Thankfulness and vice versa" to see the real necessity of continuing to give thanks. For that article, I draw on my background as a seminary graduate with an M.Div. degree (See my bio) and my resulting familiarity with scripture and its message. Thanks in advance for your participation.

Giving thanks and praise
Giving thanks and praise

My spiritual background - A Llife of thankfulness

My own Spiritual background has a lot to do with why I am and continue to be thankful to God. I was raised in a Christian home with really wonderful Christian parents, a fact for which I will always be thankful, but at an early age, I came to realize I had to trust Jesus for myself. After a neighborhood Bible study, I prayed with the teacher to accept God's gift of salvation through Christ. I was truly thankful to God for saving me but had questions about the Christian life. For example, now that I was eternally saved, did it mean that I could do whatever I wanted to? My parents wisely explained to me that although salvation is a free gift, our lives should be lived in thankfulness and appreciation for it--Like wearing a shirt you got for Christmas.

I wasn't perfect. In my teenage years, I wandered far away from the faith and then began to doubt but soon came to grips with my doubt and made sure of my eternal destiny by seeking God through prayer. I still sin, but when I do, the Holy Spirit convicts me and I confess it and am forgiven, as IJohn 1:9 promises. I am growing in my faith day by day as I face the challenges and trials which each day brings, and am learning to keep on giving thanks in every circumstance. I don't always make it, but I keep trying. Sometimes, when things go wrong, I often do start to complain and feel low, but I try to remind myself to be thankful even then. I have many things to be thankful for, in addition to my eternal salvation. God has given me a wonderful wife to be by my side. He has given me the gift of writing and He has supplied all my earthly needs. I live in a really nice home and ride in a really nice car. I thank Him for all of these things. But if they would all be taken away tomorrow, I would still be thankful for what I have in Him. But, having said all of that, still, as being human, we all can forget from time to time. Thus, it's good to be reminded now and then, and that's what the Thanksgiving Day Holiday was intended to do.

Check out the history of Thanksgiving day as I have outlined it below. But, whatever you do, be sure to read my article on "The Power of Thanksgiving and Vice Versa" in the section titled "But Seriously..." below.

Early Native American thanksgiving cerimonies
Early Native American thanksgiving cerimonies

History I: Pre-American thanksgiving days

(info. gleaned from The Multimedia Reference Library)

The Multimedia Reference Library shows that:

1. Native Peoples of North America have, from the earliest times, held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests.., and for other instances of good fortune.... The main reason for any and all celebrations or ceremonies was to give thanks.

Performing in a pow wow dance
Performing in a pow wow dance | Source

2.Also from earliest times, celebrations with merrymaking and feasting were held throughout Europe after a successful crop.


History II: Historical Background of the American Thanksgiving Day - Info. gleaned from Wikipedia

The Puritans
The Puritans

Thanksgiving and the Reformation:

(info. gleaned from Wikipedia:)

In addition to being rooted in ancient harvest festivals, our American Thanksgiving celebration had its main imputes in the English protestant reformation. The puritans, as early as 1536 tried to do away with all church holidays, including Christmas and Easter and replace them with "specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving", in response to what they called "acts of special providence." Thus, Pilgrims and Puritans coming from England in the 1620s and 30s brought The tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving.

History III: The History of the Plymuoth Thanksgiving Day-

They came--around 100 of them--many members of the English separatist church-- on the Mayflower, a three-masted merchant ship in Sept. 1620. They braved a harsh winter, in which more than half of them died. But the survivors were able to secure peace treaties with neighboring Native American tribes and build a largely self-sufficient economy within five years. They founded the Plymouth colony that first year and were helped by the Indians to bring in a bountiful harvest. Thus, they invited the Indians to join them in a tremendous feast to celebrate. For more, watch the video below:.

The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts... nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.

— H. W. Westermayer
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The MayflowerThe Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock"The Embarkation of the Pilgrims" (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York CityA pilgrim coupleThe Plymouth Plantationcarpenter's house  at the Plymouth PlantationPilgrim man making a hoe at the Plymouth PlantationThe saw pit at the Plymouth PlantationThe first Thanksgiving
The Mayflower
The Mayflower | Source
The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock
The Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock
"The Embarkation of the Pilgrims" (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City
"The Embarkation of the Pilgrims" (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City | Source
A pilgrim couple
A pilgrim couple
The Plymouth Plantation
The Plymouth Plantation | Source
carpenter's house  at the Plymouth Plantation
carpenter's house at the Plymouth Plantation | Source
Pilgrim man making a hoe at the Plymouth Plantation
Pilgrim man making a hoe at the Plymouth Plantation | Source
The saw pit at the Plymouth Plantation
The saw pit at the Plymouth Plantation | Source
The first Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving | Source

History IV: The food at the first Thanksgiving

I must admit that I really look forward to Thanksgiving Day every year for the chance to eat turkey with cranberry sauce, candied yams and pumpkin pie. Yummmm. We often think that what we serve on Thanksgiving Day was exactly what the pilgrims and Indians enjoyed on that first Thanksgiving day, but it is not necessarily the case. I have gleaned the following from the Multimedia Reference Library:

--Food at the first Thanksgiving (info gleaned from the Plymouth Plantation website)

  • Fowl -- Not necessarily turkey It could have been ducks, geese or other fowl
  • Cranberrys, if served, would have been part of an Indian dish or added to a Pilgrim sauce for tartness . But the invention of Cranberry sauce as we know it didn't come until fifty years later.
  • Both white and sweet potatoes were unknown at the time.
  • Pumpkin Pie would not have been part of the celebration either. Although pumpkins were available, the necessary butter and flour were not.
  • Other items which WERE available would have included green and yellow vegetables, including corn, dried beans, blueberrys, and nuts,

History V: How Thanksgiving became an official Holiday-

We have seen how Thanksgiving Day began with the Pilgrims. But it would be over 200 years before it would become National holiday. How and why did that come about? Partly because Sarah Josepha Hale, the enormously influential magazine editor and author of the classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” waged a tireless campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the mid-19th century. To find out exactly how and more, click the blue link below and watch a video or read all about it.

Watch this video:

Find out more about the history of Thanksgiving facts as you watch the video below from the History channel:

Bet you didn't know: Thanksgiving history from the History Channel

Read to your children
Read to your children

--Reading to your children about the first Thanksgiving would be a great start:

Young children love to be read to, and Thanksgiving Day is the perfect opportunity to teach your children about our great American heritage and religious background. You'll find that there are several books about the first Thanksgiving written for children, so it may be hard to decide which ones to choose, It took me a bit of looking, but I finally found one which you can use, not only to teach your children about our heritage, but also to teach them about the importance of always being thankful to God in no matter what situation we find ourselves--always finding something for which to be thankful. Check it out below:

But, seriously, ...A Necessary Reminder: Give thanks! - "The Power of Thanksgiving" (and vice versa)" By James M. Becher

Be Thankful
Be Thankful | Source

The Power of Thanksgiving and Vice Versa:

We are soon to celebrate once again the National Holiday known as "Thanksgiving day." We do this every year. Every year we gather together with friends and family for a feast of plenty and, hopefully, to pause to give thanks for all our bountiful blessings. But thanksgiving should not be relegated to only one day a year. In Psalm 107, it says over and over again, "Oh that men would give praise the Lord for His goodness" We should be thankful every day not only for our great country, but for all the blessings God has given us--blessings of home, family, health, provision, freedom and happiness. not to mention His most precious gift, that of our eternal salvation, which he provided through the death of His beloved son.

But thankfulness need not start with the acceptance of the gift of salvation. By giving thanks, we simply acknowledge God as a power greater than ourselves. We can see the handiwork of the creator around us in many ways every day. As Paul puts it in Romans 1:20,"the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by things that are made, so that they are without excuse."

Yet, some of us fail to acknowledge Him, which failure, as Paul goes on to explain in verses 21-24, results in inevitable spiritual and moral decline. These verses reveal a slippery slope which starts with unthankfulness. Unthankfulness leads to confused thinking and pride which in turn lead to idolatry, which leads to moral impurity and depravity and ultimate separation from God.

If all we were left to was our own selves and our own abilities, we would be quite limited indeed. Human beings are finite and limited, but God is infinite and unlimited. He has endowed all of us with special talents and abilities, but we must admit that these are from Him, and that they, although wonderful, are limited. The only being with unlimited power and resources is God. By being thankful, we acknowledge His sovereign control over our lives and His power to change situations and give us more power and ability. To be unthankful to Him is limit our own potential even further than it already is, while being thankful can cause an expansion of our abilities.

To fail to be thankful to God is to be asked to be left to be on our own--to be forced to depend on our own limited abilities and resources. In the moral realm, this spells absolute disaster. Lack of thankfulness is actually what has caused many of the problems we face today. This is what Paul was talking about in the first chapter of Romans in the Bible. He says "Because when they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks to Him...Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts...for the degrading of their bodies with one another...." I challenge you to read this entire portion in your Bible, and you will see that the spread of sin and degradation in the world is a direct result of unthankfulness toward God. Unthankfulness toward God led to the degradation of man, who was made in God's image. Think about it. An unthankful person opens himself up to all sorts of passions and desires, no matter how perverse. Unthankfulness removes the restraining hand of God over us and leaves us to our own wicked and perverse bents. Thus, an unthankful attitude is the first step on a dangerous downward spiral. This is true both individually and nationally.

The trouble is that none of us naturally wants to acknowledge a higher power than ourselves, because then we must yield to that power. But what we fail to realise is that yielding to God is the only true freedom. And when we acknowledge Him and begin to be thankful to Him for His many blessings, He will start to bless us more and to show us, if we do not yet know, what is the true way of eternal salvation which He has provided for us. It's no secret, really, and involves another act of thankfulness on our part, that of thankfully accepting the gift which God has provided for us (see Romans 6:23.)

On the positive side, the more we are thankful for the blessings we have, the more blessings we will receive. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 that our prayers should be "with thanksgiving." If we have a problem, we should trust in the promises of God and praise Him for the answer to come.

--The power of thanksgiving in the first Thanksgiving:

The first Thanksgiving day happened as a result of the Pilgrims' thankfulness for a bountiful harvest. But they had just passed through a very hard winter. The cold, snow and sleet was exceptionally heavy, interfering with the workers as they tried to construct their settlement. Yet, it is certain that they did not loose heart, but gave thanks even then for the chance they had to begin a new life in the new world. And God honoured their faith and thankfulness with bountiful harvest, which gave them more reason for thankfulness. And God continued to bless them.

Pilgrims in the snow
Pilgrims in the snow | Source

--Conclusion: 1) A necessary reminder:

Our country was founded upon faith in God. And this is the reason for this national holiday we call "Thanksgiving." But we are moving dangerously away from our foundation. It's high time we took this day not just as an excuse to get together with family and friends and stuff ourselves, but as a reminder of the attitude of thankfulness which should be ours every day of the year for all of God's manifold blessings which we enjoy, not the least of which is our free eternal salvation through his son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

---James M. Becher

This video is a song of praise for our greatest blessing, which I mentioned just above:

On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge our dependance.

— William Jennings Bryan
offering of the incense on the golden Altar of incense in the Old Testament tabernacle
offering of the incense on the golden Altar of incense in the Old Testament tabernacle | Source

Conclusion continued:-- 2) The sacrifice of praise

Admittedly there are times in all of our lives when things go wrong and we just don't feel like giving thanks. I wonder if the pilgrims felt like it during that hard crossing and bad winter. Yet, the writer of Hebrews urges us, in Hebrews 13:15, to "offer the sacrifice of praise to God in all things."--that is in good times and bad. In Psalm 141:2, David compared our praise to the daily offering of the incenses in the Old Testament tabernacle. It's easy to praise God when things are going great, but it's in the hard times, like the ones the pilgrims had that first winter, that it truly becomes a "sacrifice of praise," and God is well pleased with such sacrifices . In the New Testament, the apostle Paul writing to the Thessalonian Christian said I Thes.5:18: "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." "In everything" means in the good times and the bad times. The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk put it this way in chapter 3 verses 17-18: "Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." This brings us back full circle. Salvation is the thing I'm most thankful for. But there are a myriad of other things as well. As the Louis Armstrong song says: "What a wonderful world!" What are you thankful for?

-------James M. Becher

Do you agree? Vote here and give your reasons.

Should Thanksgiving Day be emphasized more in the U.S.?

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