The Protestant Reformation during the 1500’s in England led to changes in the Church of England. A group of Christians who believed that the reforms were not enough chose to separate themselves. This group was called “Separatists” because they separated themselves from the official state church. Their movement was outlawed, leading to persecution and the desire to leave England. They sailed for America on the Mayflower to gain the freedom to worship as they chose and were called Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. The severe Massachusetts winter combined with the lack of supplies resulted in the death of half of the Pilgrims. With help from Native Americans, the Pilgrims planted crops in the spring, and by the fall of 1621 they had a bountiful harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated with three days of Thanksgiving to God for His provision.
During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress issued a Thanksgiving proclamation each year to set aside a day of thanks to God for His help for the new nation.
The first presidential proclamation for Thanksgiving was issued by George Washington in 1789. This annual fall celebration of thanks remained popular in parts of the country, particularly the New England area, but did not become a national holiday until a proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 making the last Thursday in November a national annual holiday for the purpose of “thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens”.
Historians credit Sarah Josepha Hale for her efforts in petitioning President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Hale, who was a well-known writer and editor, wrote many letters and editorials for more than thirty years urging the adoption of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Hale saw the celebration of Thanksgiving to recognize America’s deeply rooted faith in God, and the celebration of Independence Day to recognize the founding principles and birth of our nation. As stated by Hale in her writings in 1852, “The Fourth of July is the exponent of independence and civil freedom, Thanksgiving Day is the national pledge of Christian faith in God, acknowledging Him as the dispenser of blessings.”
After President Lincoln’s proclamation, Thanksgiving continued to be celebrated each year on the last Thursday of November. However, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation moving Thanksgiving up by one week in order to have a longer Christmas shopping season to help promote economic recovery.
For two years, some of the states celebrated Thanksgiving a week earlier, while other states celebrated the original date. In 1941, Congress passed a joint resolution setting the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
The historical accounts surrounding Thanksgiving add to the rich history of our nation and serve as a reminder of God’s blessings. As you gather with your family this Thanksgiving, remember to thank God for His provision in our lives and pray for our nation that we will continue to seek and honor God.
Wreaths Across America – Pontotoc County
The Pontotoc American Legion Auxiliary has wreaths available again this year. The wreaths were originally designed for veterans’ graves but are being offered for placement on any loved one’s grave. They can also be used for holiday door hangers. The cost is $15.00 each. Order and payment receipt date is TOMORROW, Thursday, November 19. For more information, contact Mary Frances Stepp at 662-509-0903 or Marilyn Ide at 662-488-5493. The pickup date is December 19 at the Habitat for Humanity Warehouse from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.