Happy Thanksgiving. American Thanksgiving, that is. In Australia, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the last Wednesday of November. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. But America celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.

That wasn’t always the case. In fact, the New England Puritans celebrated the first Thanksgiving sometime in late September or October. And it wasn’t just one day; it lasted three days. A letter from Edward Winslow, who was there, describes  the food that was eaten. He mentions corn and barley and peas and wild turkeys. He also talks about the Native Americans, who were coming and going to the feast. At one point King Massasoit showed up, along with his ninety mighty men, and a number of them went out and killed five deer. So venison was also served at the first Thanksgiving.

Winslow writes that the three days of entertaining and feasting were to celebrate the goodness of God in providing so much. They had not want, but rather plenty. That first Thanksgiving was in 1621.

Fast-forward to 1863. America is in the middle of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issues a Thanksgiving Proclamation. He begins the proclamation by declaring, “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln goes on to say that, despite three years of civil war, we are surrounded by the gracious gifts of the Most High God. He says,

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged [these gifts from God], as  . . . fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. . . . In testimony whereof, I have here unto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

By presidential proclamation, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November to remember the Most High God who has given us wonderful things and has blessed us with so much.

We can go even further back for an earlier Thanksgiving Proclamation. We can go back to Psalm 136:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
For his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

And as we get to the end of the psalm, the psalmist says,

It is he who remembered us in our lowest state,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and he rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

So because of the God who gives all food, even turkeys, we celebrate Thanksgiving.