“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Be thankful to him, and bless his name.” — Psalm 100:4
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is an annual day of thanks for the blessings of the past year, observed on the fourth Thursday in November in each of the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
It is a historical, national and religious holiday that began with the Pilgrims.
After the survival of their first colony through the bitter winter and the gathering of the harvest, Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony issued a thanksgiving proclamation in the autumn of 1621.
This first thanksgiving lasted three days, during which the Pilgrims feasted on wild turkey and venison with their Indian guests.
Days of thanksgiving were celebrated sporadically until Nov. 26, 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation of a nationwide day of thanksgiving. He made it clear that the day should be one of prayer and giving thanks to God.
It was to be celebrated by all religious denominations, a circumstance that helped to promote a spirit of common heritage.
Credit for establishing this day as a national holiday is usually given to Sarah J. Hale, editor and founder of the Ladies’ Magazine (from 1828) in Boston.
Her editorials in the magazine and letters to President Abraham Lincoln urging the formal establishment of a national holiday of thanksgiving resulted in Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863, designating the last Thursday in November as the day.
Succeeding presidents annually followed his example, except for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1939 proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a week earlier — on the fourth but not the last Thursday — to encourage holiday shopping.
In 1941, Congress adopted a joint resolution setting the date on the fourth Thursday.
With Thanksgiving Day in mind, I reflect with an old poem that describes a woman walking through a meadow, meditating on nature. While strolling about, she came upon a field of golden pumpkins. In the corner of the field stood a majestic, huge oak tree.
She sat under the oak tree musing on the strange twists in nature that put tiny acorns on huge branches and huge pumpkins on tiny vines.
She thought to herself, “God blundered with Creation! He should have put the small acorns on the tiny vines and the large pumpkins on the huge branches.”
Nodding off, the woman stretched out under the oak tree for a nap.
A few minutes after falling asleep she was awakened by a tiny acorn bouncing off her nose. Chuckling to herself, she rubbed her nose and thought, “Maybe God was right after all!”
For all the blessings we have received this year, whether they be seen or unseen, recognized or disguised, I would like to offer this Prayer of Thanksgiving unto the Lord.
For he knows what we need even before we ask or are aware of it.
“O Lord our God: You have called us by a holy calling to lift up our hands and to render homage to your righteous judgment.
Accept our prayers, devotions, requests, and adoration.
Grant us, O God, an invincible faith, an unshakeable hope, and love sincere.
Bless our comings and goings, our deeds and works, our words and desires.
Grant that we may praise, sing, and bless the lavishness of your bounty which is beyond description, for blessed is.
Thy holy name and glorified is thy kingdom.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever more.
The Rev. Andrew Nelko is pastor of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Campbell.