The first American Thanksgiving celebration was held in the fall of 1621, after the Plymouth settlers had gathered in their first harvest. The feast, which lasted for several days, was a celebration of God’s goodness and provision for the little colony. Many Indians joined the feast, including King Massasoit and ninety of his men. Throughout the early years of America, days of celebration and thanksgiving were held whenever God’s hand was seen in a special way. Such celebrations were held after droughts ended, battles were won, and crops were gathered in.
Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday in America until 1863. In October of that year, President Abraham Lincoln said:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
Thus, this proclamation began a tradition that carries on today.
Scripture instructs, “O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people” (Psalm 105:1). Believers have much for which to be thankful. Our greatest gratitude ought to be for our salvation, purchased on Calvary by the blood of Jesus. Other blessings for which to give thanks include Christian fellowship, daily provision, and the faithfulness of God from day to day.
Take some time this Thanksgiving season to think about what you are thankful for. Praise the Lord for His goodness and share about His faithfulness with those around you.