A Rich Tradition of Thanksgiving
Our nation has inherited a long, rich tradition of thanking God for his blessings.
In 1541 Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his men conducted a service of thanksgiving for the abundant food and water they found along the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle.
In 1564 French Huguenot colonists settled in the area of Jacksonville, Florida, and “sang a psalm of Thanksgiving of God.”
In 1607, when the Jamestown colonists arrived in Virginia, they immediately erected a wooden cross and gave thanks for their safe passage across the ocean.
In 1619, English colonists at Berkeley Hundred in Virginia decreed that the day of their arrival, December 4, “shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, held a feast to celebrate the harvest and thank the Lord for his goodness—the feast we now remember as the “First Thanksgiving.
In 1777, during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress designated December 18 of that year a day “for solemn Thanksgiving and praise” for the Patriot army’s victory at Saratoga—the first national day of thanksgiving.
In 1789 President George Washington proclaimed November 26 to be a day of thanksgiving for God’s blessings and for the new United States Constitution.
It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that the country got a regular national Thanksgiving Day. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” Succeeding presidents followed Lincoln’s example. In 1941, Congress passed a law officially declaring the fourth Thursday in November as America’s Thanksgiving Day.