In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
Did you hear that big thud?
That was me falling off my chair.
Did you catch the word "campaign" in that story?
Honestly, I tell you the truth, I had decided to call my blog posts "campaigns" before I read the whole Thanksgiving story from the web site I'm using.
Oh, our God is so clever! He SO wants us to get this!
I believe He has stirred up inside of me a need to express to you, Dear Readers, this campaign to bring back the truth about Thanksgiving.
Oh, that He would use little, old me (okay, not so "little"...) to tell His story.
It seems that Sara Josepha Hale had an issue with the fact that Thanksgiving wasn't being given its true worth.
She was passionate about establishing the circumstances that occurred so many years ago, as a national holiday.
Perhaps she understood the passion the Pilgrims felt to worship freely.
In a way, the Pilgrims were on a campaign to find worship-freedom. They were on a campaign to find God without the Man-Made-Rules in England's church.
Maybe, just maybe, I'm feeling a little of that passion. That today, America would stop and acknowledge the real reason for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Oh, God! May we hear You. It seems You want us to recall Your faithfulness to the first Pilgrims. They endured great hardships yet they did not give up their pursuit of You. Despite the circumstances they pushed on through death and famine to establish a land where they could freely worship You. This land of America. Thank you, Lord, for Sara Josepha Hale who wouldn't give up. For 36 years she fought to have the testimony of the Pilgrims honored. Thank you for the Presidents that have acknowledged the need to have day set aside for this pivotal event. Thank you for a people that wanted to worship You so they gave up all to sail to a new land. Thank you for Squanto that remained kind and loving despite difficult circumstances. I know You bring all of this together. You are the One to be worshipped and adored. Stir up a passion in each one of the readers of this blog. A passion to give You glory and honor in their lives. A passion to push through circumstances and to allow You to make good out of what may seem bad. The Pilgrims, Squanto, and Sara Josepha Hale give testimony of Your greatness. I want to do the same. Praise You! With a heart of thankfulness, I say I love You! In Jesus's name...Amen.