In the United States on every fourth Thursday in November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. Yet, when the history of this day is traced back to its origins in the early 1620s, it was celebrated with more of a religious undertone. In 1619, 38 English settlers arrived by boat at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia. When they arrived, a religious celebration was held, as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ship’s arrival at the place assigned in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
Pilgrims and Puritans who came from England in the 1620s and 1630s also carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest, which is what we normally associate with the origin of the feast we celebrate today with turkey and various side dishes.
Today, the Thanksgiving holiday has taken on more of a secular character, whereas the religious aspect of the feast has been mitigated. This trend to turn religious holidays into secular holidays has continued and thus the meaning and significance of why we celebrate them is lost. There are Christmas advertisements being promoted prior to the celebration of Halloween. Even the meaning of Halloween has been forgotten. All Hallows Eve was the vigil that was kept before the celebration of All Saints Day. As Catholics we are also reminded about thanksgiving every time we attend the Mass and receive the Eucharist, which is our response to this august sacrament. This Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks and praise to God as a reminder that all we have received is a gift from his Bountiful Goodness.