Lest We Forget

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History tells us that from ancient times, the Wampanoag Indians of southeastern Massachusetts held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child.

For those coming to America from England and other parts of Europe, they too had traditionally celebrated with feasting after a successful crop.

Together in 1621, these two cultures celebrated a good harvest after a year of deprivation and sickness. To the Puritans whose strong Christian faith was the centerpiece of their lives and motivation for coming to what would become the United States, this time of celebration was not merely a time of revelry, it was an outpouring of gratitude to God for preserving and providing for them.

At this first time of coming together around a table to give thanks, it was an emotional time of not only celebrating the harvest of crops, but also a celebration of their civil and religious freedom. They feasted for three days. Later Congress asked President George Washington in 1789 to declare a national day of Thanksgiving on November 26 of that year.

Gratefulness for God’s provision continued, but without a formal date or custom until 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to God for the success of the Union Army at Gettysburg in the midst of the Civil War to be held on the last Thursday of November. That first year it was celebrated on November 26, 1863.

During 1939 another time of war and challenges for the nation, the last Thursday of November fell on the last day of the month. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was concerned that this would shorten the Christmas shopping season that was needed for the country’s economic recovery so he moved Thanksgiving to the second to the last Thursday of November. This decision was not received by all the states so 16 states continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.

Finally in 1941, Congress decided to set a fixed date for this holiday and on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a resolution establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the official national Thanksgiving Day.

Since that time, the date has followed that resolution. Customs around the date have changed and for most Americans food may be a central feature of the day, but football games and early Christmas shopping have also been added.

I am well aware this historical review is probably familiar to all of you, but in the midst of feasting, football, and shopping perhaps we need to remind ourselves of that record. I cannot help but notice when I do review it that I see that gratefulness was expressed for provision when times were difficult and the future uncertain. It was a time of thankfulness not only for harvest and protection, but civil and religious freedom.

Despite the harsh times of the Pilgrims, the uncertainty of this nation’s survival after breaking with England, the severing of this nation’s union during the bloody Civil War, or the perilous times just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, attention was focused on giving thanks and expressing gratitude to God for being there in the midst of the hardship and uncertainty.

As I consider that, I am reminded that no matter what the uncertainty of this current hour may be for our nation or any one of us individually, the founders of our nation believed it was key to set aside a specific day of every year to pause from the routine schedule and daily grind to give thanks.

I look around the table as we gather together again this year and consider how grateful I am for those who are there as well as those who are missing who paved the way for my family, and me but if I stop there I will be remiss.

 

Thanksgiving is a day for looking up to God for His sustaining grace and provision, for the civil and religious freedom that has been a foundation for this nation.

 

Yes, times are uncertain once again. Yes, we are still a young nation with many things to still “get right”.

 

But God is a good God, a faithful God, and so it is necessary for us learn once again to pause and remember.

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Lest We Forget

  1. An excellent reminder Grandma! All that is happening in the world today doesn’t change the fact that God has provided mightily for us, and it is healthy to be reminded where we have come from!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pam, I enjoyed your review of history and the reminder: “that no matter what the uncertainty of this current hour may be for our nation or any one of us individually, the founders of our nation believed it was key to set aside a specific day of every year to pause from the routine schedule and daily grind to give thanks.” God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving.

    Like

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