What's happening this Thanksgiving? Let's see: the Cowboys will play the Raiders; that could be a good game. Various restaurants cater complete meals at decent prices, and you can find a wonderful array of recipes online. There's even a "Thanksgiving on The Net" site. If you have time, that might be interesting.
A friend of mine asked if there were any Thanksgiving celebrations before the Pilgrims came to America. The answer is, of course, yes. Here are a few tidbits of Thanksgiving trivia.
The Egyptians had a harvest festival to honor Min, the god of fertility and crops. The Chinese had a harvest celebration on what they considered the moon's birthday. Thinking that flowers fell from the moon on the third day, people watched for them, and whoever saw them fall would receive good luck. The Greeks worshipped the grain goddess, Demeter, and the Romans honored the goddess of grain, Ceres (which might be the same as Demeter). They also celebrated the Cerelia harvest which could be the origin of our word, cereal.
The Hebrews have been celebrating their harvest festival, Sukkoth, for about 3,500 years. This is also called the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Ingathering, which takes place about five days after Yom Kippur. The difference with the Hebrews is they don't have various gods for each occasion. They have only one God: the true God called The Living God. He is called the Living God because He is not a myth, picture, or statue. He is alive and communicates with us. Worshiping and thanking God, the Creator, has been ongoing for more than 5,000 years.
Enter two newcomers in history: the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving celebration in the New World was in 1621, and Canada's in 1879.
Do you see the common thread? A thanksgiving celebration, by whatever name, has been religious in nature all through man's history. If you want to do the homework, you can follow a harvest celebration back to at least 3,000 B.C.
Because the turkey was fast and alert with sharp eyesight, it reminded Benjamin Franklin of God's provision in our early colonial existence, and he wanted to make it the United States national symbol (but it lost out to the Roman emblem, the Eagle).
For years, Thanksgiving was observed randomly, but the first Thanksgiving Proclamation in American Colonies was made on June 20, 1676. Thanksgiving proclamations were made annually by the U.S. Congress from 1777-1783 and celebrated in December. George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789 and 1795; John Adams in 1798 and 1799; and James Madison twice in 1815.
The next national Thanksgiving Day was declared by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War in April of 1862. In 1863, he declared Thanksgiving for Aug. 6, and for the last Thursday, Nov. 26, which was one week after he gave the Gettysburg Address. He declared a similar observance in 1864, establishing a precedent that has been followed by every president since then.
Being a thankful person isn't natural, but grumbling is. Watch a child. If he doesn't get his way, he fusses, and if he doesn't receive correction and proper teaching, he becomes a grumbling and discontented adult. You probably know several, and it is not enjoyable being in their company.
It isn't what we have or don't have, or whether we've experienced hardship in life that prompts us to be thankful. Humans must be taught to be thankful. For example, Philippians 2:14 says, "Do everything without complaining or arguing." We should teach that to our children when they are very young.
A thankful person more easily experiences joy in life, and joyfulness does something else. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A joyful heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength." Overall, joyful people are healthier. This can cut down on trips to the medical clinics and reduce our dependence on doctors and lawyers. Joyful people usually have more clarity of thought, therefore, make fewer mistakes. That can save a lot of money.
When we stop and think about it, being a thankful person is beneficial in many ways. But the primary way is it can enable us to have a closer, more dynamic relationship with our heavenly Father.
Don't think of today as turkey day. Instead, allow the joy of the Lord to flood your soul, and truly give thanks to Almighty God for His blessings. And share your blessings with others who may be hurting.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends.
-- S. Eugene Linzey is an author, mentor, and speaker. Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his website at www.genelinzey.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.