The origins of Thanksgiving reach back nearly four centuries. As the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts in 1620, they barely survived the winter as over half of the original settlers died. Yet assisted by helpful Indians of the area, they were able to reap a bountiful harvest the following year.
On December 13, 1621, to offer thanksgiving to God and celebrate with their Indian friends, a three day feast was proclaimed. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America (thanksgiving services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), it was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival.
Early in our nation’s history, America celebrated its first Thanksgiving to God in 1789 under its new constitution. That same year, the Protestant Episcopal Church, of which President Washington was a member, announced that the first Thursday in November would become its regular day for giving thanks, “unless another day be appointed by the civil authorities.” Yet, despite these early national proclamations, official Thanksgiving observances usually occurred only at the State level.
Credit for an annual Thanksgiving Day may also be given to Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale. For thirty years, she promoted the idea of a national Thanksgiving Day, contacting President after President until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War. In 1941, Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving Day, also at a time of war in many parts of the world.
Today’s Thanksgiving often surrounds itself among the three “f” words– family, feasting, and football. I encourage you to enjoy those three things as part of your holiday experience ( with hopefully an Eagles win over the Cowboys!)
But I also hope you will recall the spiritual roots of giving thanks to God. In order to help you in that venture, the people of Grace Lutheran and Heidelberg UCC in Hatfield invite you to a joint worship service at Grace on Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 26 at 7:30 pm at Grace Church. We will worship and thank God for God’s gifts and love to us in so many ways. There will be a joint choir and a time for fellowship following the service. I encourage you to take an hour before the festivities begin the following day to remember and rejoice with us or so other nearby location for you.
With Grace to you and Gratitude to God,
+ Pastor Dave Lutcher