The original settlers in the United States were religious people. The first Thanksgiving originated by the Pilgrims following their first harvest in 1621. Ten years later various colonies set aside a day for prayer and thanks. The governors of the various colonies set the date for their areas. Later the Continental Congress set the date for an annual Thanksgiving Day.
In 1789 President George Washington proclaimed a day for offering thanks, Thursday, November 26. By 1858 Thanksgiving Day was observed by 25 States and 2 Territories.
Sarah Joseph Hale, one of America's first women Journalists, pressed President Abraham Lincoln to set a fixed date for Thanksgiving as President Washington had done. In 1864 President Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day as President Washington had done. Since that time each President has issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation designating the last Thursday in November to be observed nationally as the day for giving thanks. There was one exception, in 1941 President Roosevelt set the date one week earlier in order to extend the Christmas shopping season. There was such a public outcry that the date was soon changed back to the original date of the last Thursday in November.
THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION
By the President of the United States of America.
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 to implore his protection and favor- and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness";
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to be the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all good that was, that is, or that will be - That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks - for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation - for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war - for the great degree of tranquillity, union and plenty, which we have since enjoyed - for the peaceful and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted - for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually - to render our national Government a blessing to all the People by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed - to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us) and to bless them with good Government, peace, and concord - to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us - and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by His divine law, nations , like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people ?
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to fell the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
October 3, 1863
THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT THANKSGIVING
- OR DID YOU?
The United States is not the first country to have set aside a special time to offer thanksgiving. Many countries before us have celebrated such holidays. For example:
The ancient Greeks observed nine days of Thanksgiving for the harvest. It was called the Thesmophoria and it was in honor of the Feast of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. The Thesmophoria was celebrated in November by married women only!
- The ancient Romans observed a yearly Festival on October 4 called the Cerelis. It was named after Ceres, the goddess of the harvest. (Our word “cereal” comes from her name.)
- The ancient Israelites began the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles during which they gave thanks to God for their harvest.
- In Thailand a “Swing Festival” is observed annually to show gratitude for bounties received.
- A feast called Host Gilde is celebrated in Norway when the harvest has been taken in for the year.
- Holland celebrated Thanksgiving Day in October in memory of their victory over Spain in 1575.
- In England Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, is set aside as a day of thanks. It celebrates the discovery of a plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. The English also celebrate the Harvest Home festival which can be traced back to the ancient Saxons.
- A Thanksgiving Day similar to the United States has been celebrated in Canada since 1879. It has been observed on many different days in the past and now occurs on the second Monday in October.
- Coming back home again, most - it not all - of the American Indian tribes observed times of thanksgiving.
Historic Trinity Lutheran Church
1345 Gratiot Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48207
Phone: (313) 567-3100
Fax: (313) 567-3209
Click to hear "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come."