This & That

Story published: 11-26-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Don't overlook your blessings this Thanksgiving

By Jack Swift

As I write this column it is Friday, November 22, 2013. I am keenly aware that this day marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death by an assassin’s bullet. Less than a week from now on November 28 will be Thanksgiving Day: a day set aside to give thanks to God for his blessings on us and his care for us. Both days are extremely important days. Those days are concerned with he untimely death of a greatly admired and popular president and a special day during which we give thanks to God for his amazing blessings. Appropriately, these days and the events they represent will be in the news with much coverage in both the print and electronic media. I can add little to what has already been read or said about those days in November.

I thought it would be interesting to include in this column a bit about Thanksgiving. There have been many dates set aside to give thanks to Almighty God for his blessings, but we commonly trace the Thanksgiving Holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast to celebrate a successful growing season. It began originally as a religious occasion and later became a civil tradition. To many Americans it is both.

The governor of Plymouth William Bradford wrote concerning the feast of 1621, “They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).” Governor Bradford continued his narration by telling of the food available to the colony: waterfowl, wild turkeys, venison, meal and Indian corn. The Pilgrims held another Thanksgiving celebration in 1623. Of the 1623 harvest following a terrible drought, Bradford wrote: “And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving…

By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty… for which they blessed God...

As president of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

By the beginning of the 19th Century it had become customary to celebrate Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November. On December 26, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.