What is Thanksgiving

Thanks Giving - Should You Celebrate Thanksgiving Day?
November 8, 2006 7:04am CST
Thanksgiving Day, as celebrated in North America, is a time to gather with family and friends to give thanks for the many blessings enjoyed by these nations and their citizens. However, to many people, its meaning is lost. It has become simply another day for huge meals, dinner parties, get-togethers or reunions. What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Turkey dinners, cranberries, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and family gatherings—these are all commonly associated with most Americans’ and Canadians’ yearly celebration of giving thanks—Thanksgiving Day!In the United States, Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday of November. In Canada, it is the second Monday in October. On this holiday, a Thanksgiving meal is prepared with all the trimmings; families gather together and talk, while others watch a game or a parade filled with pilgrims, Indians and other colonial figures. Some families may even have their own yearly Thanksgiving traditions. What comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? Do you picture a time of thankfulness towards God—or is it merely one of eating, partying or watching football?Sadly, the latter is what Thanksgiving has become to most. They have forgotten why the day was established. Its meaning has slowly deteriorated, and is now almost completely lost under a cloud of media hype, sales pitches, marketing tactics and blitz commercialism. While many are familiar with the traditional representation of the original Thanksgiving, it is helpful to examine the purpose for which it was first celebrated. By doing this, the day’s meaning will be firmly established. The Origin of Thanksgiving Day In August 1620, the Mayflower, a 180-ton ship, set sail from Southampton, England. After difficulties with the vessel, resulting in her return to port, finally the voyage began. Her 103 passengers were to become some of the founding pilgrims of the United States of America, and the creators of one of this nation’s most popular holidays. After weeks of plowing through the tumultuous Atlantic waters, battling strong winds, pounding waves and a number of problems with their vessel, the pilgrims spotted Cape Cod, off the coast of Massachusetts. The stormy weather was brewing so strongly, that they had arrived there by accident. Their intended location was off the Virginia coast, where other pilgrims had begun colonies. Before anchoring at Plymouth Rock and disembarking to explore the territory, the pilgrims devised the “Mayflower Compact.” This was to serve as the basis for governing their new colony, where all would have the freedom to worship God as they chose. The Compact stated: “We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James…Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant, and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names; Cape Cod, the 11th of November…” (Winslow, Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 1622). The next few months would prove to be difficult and trying. Of the original 103 pilgrims, only 56 survived the first, long, bleak New England winter. Often, two or three people would die in one day due to infection and sickness. But, with the approaching of spring came new hope. The survivors built homes and planted crops. They made friendships with local Indian tribes, and traded with them. The passing of winter allowed the pilgrims to labor and produce, causing the colony to flourish. After reaping their first harvest in the fall of 1621, the pilgrims dedicated a day for thanking God for the bounty He had blessed them with. They had endured the many hardships that came with pioneering a new land. They toiled through building an entire colony from what was simply wilderness. They were at peace with their neighbors. And they were especially grateful for their harvest. This allowed them to gather and store plenteous food and crops for the long and brutal winter ahead. Their governor, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving towards God. They prepared a great feast to enjoy with family and friends—both from within the colony and with neighboring Indian tribes. The following quotes demonstrate Mr. Bradford’s and the colony’s gratitude and thankfulness for God’s protection and blessings:“Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.” In reminiscing upon the colony’s success, Mr. Bradford continues, “Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled has shown unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of[God] have all the praise.” Clearly, the pilgrims of the Plymouth colony gave God all the credit for all that they had. Notice the many references to God, and their acknowledgement of how He granted them so many blessings. The pilgrim’s beliefs were firmly entrenched in the realization of God’s presence and intervention in their everyday lives. Thanksgiving Day began because of this belief. It is a day dedicated to giving thanks to God for the many things we often take for granted today. Over the years, many colonies did keep Thanksgiving, but they kept various other days of thanksgiving, at different times of the year. It is a popular misconception that the pilgrims kept Thanksgiving on the same day each year following the first celebration in 1621, and that the other colonies began keeping that same day. In truth, it was a tradition always used to highlight and show gratitude for important events, such as bountiful harvests, victories in battle, etc. Whenever these took place, the colony called for the celebration of a day of thanksgiving. In the late 1700s, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congresses suggested the yearly observance of a day of national thanksgiving, in hopes to unite factious states. In 1817, the state of New York adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual holiday. By the mid-1800s, other states likewise adopted the practice. In 1863, President Lincoln appointed it as a national holiday, and gave a Thanksgiving proclamation. Each president since then has issued a proclamation, announcing the celebration of this day. Is Thanksgiving Day Biblical? In examining the origins of popular holidays, some may wonder if Thanksgiving Day is a biblical holiday, or whether it is rooted in paganism, as some have claimed. Though not specifically mentioned in the Bible, Thanksgiving is different from most other national holidays. In fact, many nations celebrate their own unique harvest festivals. Deceived by Satan (Rev. 12:9), the world at large is cut off from the true God. Therefore, it should not be surprising that even such harvest festivals occasionally become tainted with the worship of heathen deities. Although such ancient festivals were usually influenced by paganism, history shows Thanksgiving Day as practiced in North America was unique. The originators of this day focused upon giving thanks for an abundant harvest, sorely needed for survival. Being centered on giving thanks to the Creator is a major distinction in origin that separates Thanksgiving Day from holidays tainted with pagan origins, such as Easter, Valentine’s Day, Christmas or Halloween. (Refer to our booklet God’s HOLY DAYS or Pagan HOLIDAYS?) But does God allow Christians to participate in holidays even if they are not associated with paganism?To find the answer, we must examine God’s Word—the Holy Bible. God has allowed the recording of certain scriptural accounts so that those who diligently search it can find the answers to their questions. John 10:22 records Jesus Christ being present at a Jewish celebration called the “Feast of Dedication.” This day was a yearly anniversary of the purification of the Temple at Jerusalem (in about 165 B.C.) after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. This was not a day of riotous parties or celebrations. It was a national holiday commemorating a respectable and solemn event. This account clearly shows that Christ Himself was with the Jews as they gave thanks to God on this special day. In the book of Esther, we read that through the inspiration of God, Mordecai and Esther established the “Feast of Purim.” This day was a yearly commemoration of the Jews overcoming persecution from Haman, the prime minister of King Ahasuerus. Notice Mordecai’s and Esther’s proclamation, confirming the keeping of this day: “And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed. Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew, wrote with all authority, to confirm this second letter of Purim” (9:28-29). These days were not to be observed with the same degree of honor and reverence as God’s Holy Days, which repr
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• Italy
8 Nov 06