Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year when Americans take a break from their work-day activities and gather with friends and loved ones for food, fellowship, and football. However, while Thanksgiving is celebrated by the majority of Americans, many are unaware of the strong Christian origins of this special holiday. Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 by the Plymouth settlers in Massachusetts as a harvest feast thanking God for his care and provision.
These English Pilgrims left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620 for the New World seeking religious and civil freedom. After two months at sea, they landed in what is now Massachusetts. Upon landing, they conducted a prayer service and signed the "Mayflower Compact" - the first document to introduce self-government to the New World. Then, they prepared for the harsh New England winter. Sadly, unprepared for the brutal and unforgiving environment they faced, half the settlers died before winter's end due to starvation and disease. However, by persevering in prayer and with the help of Native Americans, they planted crops and reaped a sufficient harvest to carry them through the second winter in the New World.
The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621, to thank God for His favor and to celebrate with and thank their Native American friends.
The apostle Paul writes, "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:18). As we celebrate Thanksgiving each year and enjoy our time with loved ones, it is appropriate to display the same kind of gratefulness to God for our health, well-being, families, and faith communities.
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