The original thanksgiving celebration was held by the Pilgrim settlers in Massachusetts during their second winter in America in December, 1621. That first winter killed 44 of the original 102 colonists. At one point, their daily food ration was down to five kernels of corn apiece, but then an unexpected trading vessel arrived. The Pilgrims swapped them beaver pelts for corn, providing for them when they were in need.
The next summer’s crop brought hope, and Governor William Bradford decreed that December 13, 1621, be set aside as a day of feasting and prayer to show the gratitude of the colonists that they were still alive. These Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom and opportunity in America, gave thanks to God for His many provisions for them. They found 20 acres of cleared land, there were no hostile Indians in that area, they had newly found religious freedom, and Squanto acted as an interpreter to the Indians.
Along with the feasting and games involving the colonists and more than 80 friendly Indians (who added to the feast by bringing wild turkeys and venison), prayers, sermons, and songs of praise were important in the celebration. Three days were spent in feasting and prayer.
Since then, Thanksgiving has been recognized as a day to give thanks to God for His gracious and sufficient provision. President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside the last Thursday of November, in 1863, “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” In 1941, Congress ruled that after 1941, the fourth Thursday of November be observed as Thanksgiving Day and was recognized as a legal holiday.
The Bible urges us to live a life of thanksgiving each day. Be sure to take a few minutes this Thanksgiving holiday to be thankful for our religious freedoms and for all of God’s blessings.