Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
A little known story of our Thanksgiving tradition is both instructive and inspiring today as we celebrate this, the 395th anniversary of the very first Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims celebrated the first such day in 1621, almost four centuries ago. It was a harvest feast and wasn’t called “Thanksgiving.” Note here that, given the current “diversity” craze, this feast brought together the Pilgrims and the Native Americans – peacefully. They came together in a common cause: survival. And with a common purpose: thanks.
Two years later the pilgrims did hold what they called “Thanksgiving.” It was a religious day of prayer and fasting. Note here the role of faith in the early formation of our American customs – the “Faith of our Fathers, living still.”
The Continental Congress declared the first national Thanksgiving on December 18, 1777. And in 1789 George Washington declared the last Thursday in November a National Day of Thanksgiving.
These declarations did not make it an official holiday, however. That wouldn’t come until a magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, began a write-in campaign, eventually beseeching five U.S. presidents to declare the day a national holiday. And finally, in 1863, rightly believing it would help heal a divided nation, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday.
I like this story for several reasons. First of all, it reminds us that there have always been grave divisions in our country – but that we have always overcome them and united as one people.
And equally – at times, perhaps, even more – importantly it shows what one person can do to influence the federal government and preserve and protect the land we love. And, really, isn’t that our charge as citizens today?
It is for this latter reason that on this Thanksgiving 2016, in particular, I pause to “give thanks upon every remembrance of you.” (Philippians 1:3)
And I am reminded anew of the words of one of a favorite Thanksgiving songs;
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His name; He forgets not his own.