HISTORY OF OUR NATIONAL THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States commemorating the harvest of the Plymouth Colony in 1621. The event followed a winter of great hardship.
When it was first inaugurated only a few eastern states participated. However, through the effort of Sarah Hale a change was effected. She was determined to have the whole nation join together in setting apart a national day for giving thanks “to Him from whom all blessings flow.” To this end, she engaged the press with an endless flow of letters and articles to the various newspapers and journals of her time. In addition, she pleaded long and earnest with three Presidents: Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan during the period of 1846 through 1856. A small measure of triumph was granted in the year of 1852 when her campaign succeeded in uniting 29 states in making the last Thursday of November as “Thanksgiving Day.”
Then came the dark days of the Civil War. Who would listen to a lone woman with her persistent plea for “just one day of peace amidst the blood and the strife?” One man did; her plea won the ear of a great American, and in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a day set apart for the national giving of thanks to the Almighty God. Lincoln lived to see only two such occasions, but Sarah Hale lived well on into her late 90’s, content that her long-cherished hope had at last become a reality.
By the tireless efforts of one person, therefore, the observance of Thanksgiving Day, as a national holiday, became a reality.
For the real meaning of the word, “Thanksgiving,” Christians look to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Because of Him, Thanksgiving is more than a day on a calendar, or more than a day with “turkey and trimmings.” Because of Him, we cry out with praises and worship, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Thanksgiving Day owes much to the love, grace, and mercy of Him who gave Himself on Calvary. He gave up heaven for earth. He gave Himself into the hands of sinful men that He might give His love and forgiveness to all. By God-given faith in Him we are children of God who are truly thankful. Real Thanksgiving is to experience His salvation throughout all our days!
Pastor James A. Castillo