A Brief History of Thanksgiving

Over time people worldwide have shared thanks with friends and family. This happy occasion is labeled Thanksgiving. The United States has observed Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Thanksgiving reminds us of family, good company, the bite of the fall cold, and the amazing autumn leaves that are bursting with colors. Never forget, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the tasty pumpkin pie. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led a group of 1500 to offer thanks in 1541 to what is now the Texas panhandle. French Huguenot colonists gave their humble thanks nearly two decades after Francisco Vasquez de Coronado made his tribute. Jacksonville, Florida joined in giving thanks and the Abnaki Indians met along Maine’s Kennebec River for an annual harvest prayer meeting and feast in August of 1607.

For the record, 1610 is considered to be the first official American Thanksgiving. Jamestown, Virginia was home to many colonists that gave thanks and respect to god when they were in need of supplies. An English supply ship was on the coastline with food that would eventually save the colonists from hunger and disease. Almost a decade later Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth colony and celebrated the autumn harvest with a three day feast. The governor at the time, William Bradford, invited the Chief of the Wampanoag tribe, Massaasoit, and his tribes meant to enjoy the harvest celebration. The feast included duck, wild turkey, lobsters, clams, bass, corn, vegetables, geese and dried fruit. There were also military competitions for entertainment and fun. These contests were shared by a blend of cultures during this Thanksgiving feast. George Washington coined Thanksgiving for the 26th day of November. This day was to be a national day to give thanks and prayer but never evolved to become a natural tradition during George’s time. President Adams, Madison and Washington were the only to declare national holidays for thanks. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams frowned upon these days due to the belief that it infringed upon the separation of church and state.

One fun tradition was started when the American Intercollegiate Football Association held its first ever championship game on Thanksgiving Day in 1876. Yale and Princeton were favored in the late 1800’s with scores of fans. This tradition has evolved into a plume of football games on turkey day called the “Turkey Bowl”. This event is a tradition adopted among friends, family members and even neighbors as a day to enjoy along with the food of Thanksgiving Day.A Brief History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Observances




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The original reason for those first Puritan settlers to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day was to give thanks to Almighty God for His goodness and grace, but today is just another holiday for people to have an excuse to start their Christmas shopping sooner. Every Christian should know and realize that the Bible does tell us to set aside time to give thanks to Almighty God for His great blessings to each one of us.

  • Ephesians 5:20; “Always be THANKFUL with reference to all things to God even the Father through the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • I Thessalonians 5:16-18; “Be joyful always; Pray continually; GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), the great 19th century pastor and Bible teacher writes, concerning this passage: “I have not always found it easy to practice this duty, this I confess to my shame. When suffering extreme pain some years ago, a brother in Christ said to me, ‘Have you thanked God for this?’ I replied that I desired to be patient, and would be thankful to recover, ‘But,’ said he, ‘In everything give thanks, not after it is over, but while you are still in it, and perhaps when you are enabled to give thanks for the severe pain, it will cease.’ I believe that there was much force in that good advice.”
  • Psalm 100:4; “Enter into His gates with THANKSGIVING and into His courts with praise. GIVE THANKS to Him, and honor His Person.”
  • Thanksgiving is to be a function of our prayers. Ephesians 1:16; “I do not cease giving THANKS for you, and I make mention of you in my prayers.”
  • Colossians 1:3; “We GIVE THANKS to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”


  • Colossians 4:2; “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it WITH THANKSGIVING.”
  • Colossians 2:7; “Having been rooted and having been edified (built up, strengthened) in Him, and having been stabilized by means of Bible doctrine as you have been taught, OVERFLOWING WITH THANKSGIVING.” There is a relationship between your consistent learning and application of Bible doctrine and your attitude of thanksgiving toward God. In other words, maximum knowledge of the Word of God gives you capacity for gratitude.
  • Colossians 1:10-12; “And we pray that in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit (the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (referring to consistent Bible study) Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and happiness. GIVING THANKS to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
  • II Corinthians 9:15; “THANKS be to God for His indescribable gift.” God’s indescribable gift is Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. Our Royal High Priest, our King of kings, and Lord of lords. And this verse is found at the end of Paul’s dissertation on financial giving, and thankfulness to those believers who gave to support the work of the Lord.
  • Philippians 4:6; “Stop worrying about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God.”