Thanksgiving Day is a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for the blessing of the harvest of the preceding year. It is a national holiday in various countries like the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. Moreover, it is celebrated on different days in these countries. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October. Furthermore, it is celebrated around the same month in other places.
Almost all religions give prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are held after harvests and at other times. Thanksgiving Day's history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival. In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became important during the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII. Before 1536, there were 95 Church holidays plus 52 Sundays. On these holidays, people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. The reformation that happened in 1536 reduced the number of Church holidays to 27.
But, there were some Puritans who wished to eliminate all Church holidays including Christmas and Easter. They wanted to replace holidays with specially called Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving. Unexpected disasters or threats of judgment from on high called for Days of Fasting. Special blessings which were viewed as coming from God called for Days of Thanksgiving. For example, Days of Fasting were called on account of drought in 1611, floods in 1613, and plagues in 1604 and 1622. Days of thanksgiving were called following the victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and following the deliverance of Queen Anne in 1705.
Pilgrims and Puritans emigrated to New England from England in the 1620s and 1630s carrying the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them. The modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is traced to a well-recorded 1619 event in Virginia and a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group's charter from the London Company The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated this with Native Americans who had helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food in that time of scarcity.
Several Days of Thanksgiving were held in early New England that has been identified as the First Thanksgiving. Those Days of Thanksgiving include Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623 and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631. According to historian Jeremy Bangs, who was a director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pilgrims may have been influenced by watching the annual services of Thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, while they were staying in Leiden. Now called Oktober Feest, Leiden's autumn thanksgiving celebration which was held in 1617 was the occasion for sectarian disturbance that appears to have accelerated pilgrims' plans to emigrate to America.
Later in Massachusetts, civil leaders such as Governor Bradford declared religious thanksgiving services. Governor Bradford was the one who planned the colony's thanksgiving celebration and feast in 1623. In the late 1630s, the Pequot were blamed for the killing of a white man. Due to that, colonizers burned down the Pequot villages and killed all those people who did not perish in the fires. Hundreds of Pequots were killed that led Governor Bradford to proclaim that Thanksgiving was celebrated for thanking God that the battle had been won. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.
Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682. Then, the proclamations were made by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, various proclamations were made by royal governors. Furthermore, patriot leaders such as John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress also made various proclamations to thank God for the events favorable to their causes. But, political influences affected these issuances of Thanksgiving proclamations. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America on November 26, 1789, as a day of public thanksgiving and prayers. And it is to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the signal of Almighty God.