Legend and history tell us that what we call Thanksgiving Day originated with the Pilgrims. Having landed near the site of modern Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620, the Pilgrims established a colony and prepared to face a harsh winter. However, during that first winter nearly half of all the colonists died. The Pilgrims had been unprepared for the difficult winter and had been without sufficient provisions. Through prayer, and with the help of the region's Indians, the Pilgrims worked hard and planted crops in the spring. That following summer and autumn brought an abundant harvest. On December 13, 1621, the Pilgrims instituted a three-day feast of Thanksgiving to God and celebrated with their Indian friends. Earlier thanksgiving services are recorded to have been held in Virginia as early as 1607, but the Pilgrim's celebration was America's first Thanksgiving feast. In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation declaring a day of public thanksgiving to God. Presidents who followed issued similar proclamations, but with the days and months varying. It wasn't until 1863 that the last Thursday of November was designated as the nation's Day of Thanksgiving by President Abraham Lincoln. For 75 years following, Presidents annually declared Thanksgiving Day to be a holiday and on October 6, 1941, Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday by the House passing a joint resolution. The resolution was signed by President Roosevelt on December 26, 1941, and officially established the fourth Thursday in November as a federal holiday of Thanksgiving Day.
Is Thanksgiving Day Biblical?
Clearly, our national holiday of Thanksgiving Day is not a holiday established by biblical precept. However, we should remember that the Bible does not tell us to celebrate the holidays found on modern day calendars. Most are man-made days of celebrations and have no biblical connection. Even Christmas and Easter are not biblically commanded to be celebrated.