The history of Thanksgiving Day as we know it was begun by the early settlers that arrived in America around 1620. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, one of the first Thanksgiving observances in America was entirely religious and did not involve feasting. Later, people gave thanks with feasting and prayer for the blessings they had received during the year, it was an occasion to thank God for their plentiful crops.
In 1621, Massachusetts Governor William Bradford declared a Day of Thanksgiving for the purpose of prayer and celebration. Neighboring Indians were invited to the feast, as without their help the settlers would likely have perished. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863 as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”
In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is usually a family day celebrated with big dinners and joyous reunions. It is also a time for serious religious refection, worship and prayer.
Thanksgiving Day is clearly not a biblically commanded day of celebration and feasting; however, Thanksgiving Day is certainly based on the biblical principle of being thankful to God for all of the wonderful blessings he has showered down on us. As individual Christians, we can follow the Traditions of our forefathers and enjoy family and friends on this special day, but in response to God’s goodness and his continued blessings let’s express our thankfulness every day for what our “beneficent Father” has done for us, especially the giving of his Son for the forgiveness of our sins!
As Paul said in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV).