"Why do we celebrate thanksgiving and when did it all begin?" are just some of the questions that surface as the thanksgiving day celebration approaches.
Thanksgiving is an annual celebration that Christians in the US and other parts of the world observe. Americans celebrated it on Nov. 28 last year. This year, it will be celebrated on Nov. 26, Thursday.
American Thanksgiving has its roots in 1621. It began with a shared meal to celebrate the harvest. It was not just any ordinary harvest, but one that signified the end of a tough and challenging journey.
In 1620, a group of 102 men, women, and children went onboard the Mayflower, an English ship the size of a city bus. These pilgrims went on a 65-day long journey through the Atlantic. Half of them died of exposure to extremely cold weather, brought about by a harsh New England winter, and starvation during their trip.
But as their journey ended, despite the lives they had lost, the pilgrims still gathered to celebrate the good harvest that greeted them when they settled in their destination: Plymouth. They were joined by the Wampanoag people, and with a shared meal between them, Thanksgiving was born.
The first Thanksgiving in autumn of 1621 is a celebration of God's faithfulness to the pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, Christianity.com noted. God sustained the pilgrims during their journey and granted the new colony a "bountiful" harvest after the long and arduous trip.
Grateful to a faithful God
The pilgrims, however, would have remembered their first Thanksgiving as the one they commemorated two years after their shared meal with the Wampanoag.
At the time, in 1623, a long summer drought hit their settlement threatening the death of their crops and animals. This drought could lead to famine as winter comes.
Then-Governor William Bradford commanded everyone to "set apart a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer." The pilgrims, in response, gathered together for prayer service that went on for about 8-9 hours.
As the Pilgrim ended the prayer service, the clouds began to darken and rain started pouring. The rain kept pouring for the next 14 days.
Also a sign of reverence
Aside from being a time to thank God for His faithfulness and goodness, Thanksgiving can also be a time to remember God for His greatness, and to revere Him.
Back in the Old Testament days, Pilgrims' Thanksgiving Day could be linked to the Feast of the Tabernacles or the holiday of "Sukkot." During those times, the people of Israel offered sacrifices for seven days as a sign of their gratitude and reverence to God as written in Leviticus 23:33.
In 1789, then-President George Washington proclaimed Nov. 26, Thursday as a day of public thanksgiving and thanks to God for His protection and for being the source of all that is good. In his proclamation, he encouraged the People of the States to render to God sincere and humble thanks for His kind care for the people of the country.
Then in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared a national thanksgiving day during the Civil War. In his official declaration, he urged everyone to do it in humble penitence for the national perverseness and disobedience.
And while it has been a tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in a festive manner, some Christians will also do well to celebrate it as a time to be humble and work to be reconciled with others. According to Matthew 5:23-24, the Lord Jesus wants His followers to reconcile with those they have offended before offering a sacrifice.
In this season, Christians are encouraged to continue celebrating Thanksgiving Day while observing the rules set by the authorities. Some might not be allowed to travel to visit their loved ones for Thanksgiving. Thankfully, technologies such as video conferencing can be used to celebrate it with others even if they're far away physically.