The History of Thanksgiving

Written by Kaylie Weideman. Media by Joseph Wood.

Picture depicting the first Thanksgiving. Source: Missed History

“Happy Thanksgiving!” is a phrase we use when we celebrate and feast with our families and friends. Thanksgiving is a holiday that dates back to 1621. It was introduced and celebrated by the Pilgrims and is always held on the fourth Thursday in November. At first, it was not distinguished as a holiday, but rather a simple gathering. Americans express thanksgiving by watching football games, spending time with family and friends, Black Friday shopping, and maybe even watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Not only is this holiday about feasting on glorious amounts of food, but gathering with friends and family, and celebrating a time of being thankful.

To be thankful for everything you have in your life means to recognize the privileges you receive. For example, God gives us privileges every day as we worship Him and reflect upon His good gifts. Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to reflect on these God-given gifts and privileges. Psalm 42:4 says, “These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.”

Breaking tradition to go watch the Cowboys play. Source: Getty

God wants us to reflect on our joyful times and maintain relationships with our families. When the Pilgrims came to the land of God, they had a good harvest and wanted to have a day of celebration to be thankful for that good harvest.

In the United States, we have farmers everywhere, especially in the Midwest. Therefore, the term harvest is more than familiar. In November, when the crops are bountiful, individuals come together to finally relax and celebrate the successes of a good season.

Celebrating Thanksgiving is different almost everywhere. For example, Canada celebrates Thanksgiving to commemorate when French settlers came from New France and celebrate the completion of the harvest season. They would feast with their people and others in the area. This day is used as a holy day for people to thank God for being Canadian; this is held on the second Monday of October.

Greenville University students are from all over, and they all have different Thanksgiving traditions. Paige Stanley, who is from Granite City, IL, says, “My mom wakes up extra early to start cooking. My dad and I wake up to help while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is my favorite part. Then my grandparents and siblings come over and watch football and eat all of the food my family makes.”

Family prayer before eating. Source: Building Faith

Another student, Taylor Pope from Hillsboro, IL says, “I go to both sides of my family, we eat all the food they make, my mom’s side watches football and my grandpa makes chocolate every year and my whole family loves it! It’s become a tradition of his.”

Morgan Jetton, a student from Freeburg, IL says, “We always go shopping to Target and the mall and then we have family over for food.”

So many traditions, so many celebrations, and a lot of love take place on this special day. Thanksgiving is a time to cherish those around you and to be thankful for the life that God has given you. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?


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