Early Pilgrims Would Not be Impressed with Our Thanksgiving Day Celebration

Nena Arias | November 19, 2018

It saddens my heart when I hear people refer to the celebration of Thanksgiving Day as turkey day. Do you really think that Thanksgiving is only about a lavish banquet with all the trimmings to be enjoyed with family and friends? Is it the only time of year for feeding the poor? We know that food is important for our survival, and we are very grateful for it, but is food the only thing we can be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day?

Let us not forget that it is another year in which we should be very thankful that we overcame many obstacles and challenges in life to arrive at this date in the calendar once again. So many things could have gone wrong, and in the lives of many, things did go wrong.

The historical reference of the first Thanksgiving Day in America goes way back to the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. After a very harsh winter, where half of them died, they were very thankful to have made it to the first anniversary of their arrival. They were very thankful for God’s provision to have prepared an English-speaking Indian by the name of Squanto, who had been abducted to Europe and had returned years before the Pilgrim’s arrival, to help them learn how to work the land. How could they not be thankful for God’s provision in bringing this native into their lives, without which they probably would have all died for lack of knowledge on how to cultivate that land.

Let’s fast forward, let me remind you of a portion of George Washington’s, Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favor ... " George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1789

As you can see, the Thanksgiving tradition has a very special meaning in the life of our country since its founding. Traditions that are worth keeping are those that have profound meaning and value as long as they are kept in their proper focus as originally intended; such is the case with the American tradition of Thanksgiving Day. This holiday has been taken totally out of focus in our country, even in many churches. But it is not too late to reclaim the beautiful true significance of the tradition of the Thanksgiving celebration and reap the benefits of being thankful to God for all things and not take anything for granted because God’s blessings to us are many.

Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary of the English language says the following about tradition:

“The delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity; the transmission of any opinions or practice from forefathers to descendants by oral communication, without written memorials. Thus children derive their vernacular language chiefly from tradition. Most of our early notions are received by tradition from our parents.”

A thanksgiving tradition began all the way back to thousands of years into the history of the Hebrew people. The Bible reveals what the practice of thanksgiving meant to the children of Israel. For old Israel, thanksgiving was a time of great celebration with fasting and feasting to praise God; expressed with songs and great joy. The Bible has many instances of calling people for a celebration, but also for deep national soul-searching. 

The Pilgrims that arrived at these shores, followed, by the Puritans, saw themselves no different than Israel of old; they knew they were God's chosen people being led by Almighty God to a Promised Land. The first act upon their arrival was to kneel and thank God for the safe journey he had given them. They always acknowledged the providence of God.

In colonial America "Thanksgiving" was celebrated in different ways. George Washington, as the first president of the republic, proclaimed a day for thanking God for all he had done by bringing the colonies through all the tremendous trials and he made this an official holiday with a proclamation on October 3rd in 1789. George Washington was a disciplined student of biblical Scriptures. He had no doubt in his heart that America could only be blessed as long as it would acknowledge the only source of all blessings.

Needless to say, what is taking place in America today in regard to this solemn celebration of Thanksgiving is definitely missing the mark. The historical foundation of this country has been disregarded by the government as well as the citizenry. The Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have all been tampered with and are no longer respected in the true sense. All are only given lip service for the most part.   

Another time in our country’s history when a Thanksgiving proclamation was declared by Abraham Lincoln in October 3, 1863. It was at a time when devastation and great loss of life was leaving thousands of widows and orphans scattered throughout the land as a result of the war between the states. Lincoln recognized that in spite of this terrible situation, the nation was moving forward with growth and prosperity, but he did not attribute this to the American ingenuity, rather to Almighty God when he said:

“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.”

In 1941, when World War II was in progress, the U.S. Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as the day for Americans to thank God. America today is very, different from what the Founding Fathers intended, and they would not even recognize it, nor could they have envisioned it would come to this. A nation that has destroyed most of the original foundations, that is killing its future by murdering the most defenseless and innocent of all humans, those in the mother’s womb (over sixty million and counting), degeneracy, lawlessness, big oppressive government that has taken away liberty and free enterprise, corruption at all levels is at its worst, and the list goes on. Instead of America being the model for other nations it has become an all to obvious reproach.

Our national symptoms reveal that we have very weak Christian leadership. These leaders don’t realize that God is dealing with us in anger for our sins.

This Thanksgiving let us acknowledge that America stands at a crossroad like never before in her history. Let us humble ourselves before God and pray for the salvation of our country lest God pour out the fullness of His wrath. Let us not forget what Thanksgiving is truly about. We must readjust our focus and honor our God. Let’s make the restoration of our godly foundation the goal of all of our efforts for God and country.

Credit: Mike White