The tradition of Thanksgiving as a time to focus on God and His blessings dates back almost four centuries in America. While such celebrations occurred at Cape Henry, Virginia as early as 1607, it is from the Pilgrims that we derive the current tradition of Thanksgiving.Following their first winter in America, the Pilgrims reaped a bountiful harvest the next summer. As one of them wrote, “God be praised, we had a good increase of corn”; “by the goodness of God, we are far from want.” Consequently, they declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God — America’s first Thanksgiving Festival. This began an annual tradition in the New England Colonies that slowly spread into other Colonies.

The first national Thanksgiving occurred under President George Washington (below you can see a scan of his 1789 proclamation). It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who began celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November (a practice established by federal law in 1941); below you can see a scan of his 1933 proclamation.As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, remember to retain the original gratefulness to God that has always been the spirit of this, the oldest of all American holidays. You might even want to read aloud one of these historic proclamations as part of your Thanksgiving celebration. (And if you want to read this year’s Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Bush, go to a blessed and God-filled Thanksgiving!P. S. Click here to read more Thanksgiving Day Proclamations on our website: Historical Documents<colspan=”2″>

George Washington’s 1789
Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

Click image to read full proclamation
Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933
Thanksgiving Proclamation
Click image to read full proclamation