I often enjoyed watching the 1960s game show, To Tell the Truth. It still airs today with the current host Anthony Anderson. The premise of the show consisted of the following. The host read a description of an individual’s particular accomplishment, experience, or unusual occupation. Three contestants claimed to be the person described. Panelists posed a series of questions in order to discover which of the three was the true individual introduced by the host. The show ended with the line, ‘Will the real___please stand up,’ to the surprise, applause and/or dismay of the panelists and audience.
Which brings me to the Thanksgiving Holiday and the various controversies and disputes about who started the first Thanksgiving. So, I engaged in my own version of To Tell the Truth to discover the real inventor of Thanksgiving.
1565 The Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles celebrated a thanksgiving dinner in St. Augustine Florida with the local Timucua tribe to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival.
1619 Thirty-eight British settlers who arrived on the banks of the Virginia and James River designated December 4th as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
1789 George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving at the conclusion of the War for Independence.
1863 Abe Lincoln officially set the last Thursday of November to mark the day for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
So, who is the real inventor?
The truth is that the concept of giving thanks and celebrating harvests is an ancient and global tradition.
Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Native Americans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the harvest. Jews celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot, Ghana and Nigeria the Yam Festival, Erntedankkfest in Germany, and the Moon Festival in China, to name a few.
Thanksgiving feasts are celebrated worldwide to commemorate a safe journey, welcome a newborn, move into a new home, land a lob, overcome an illness, and maybe even after writing and selling your first book.
I am persuaded that thanksgiving is ingrained within each of us and spontaneously emanates from our hearts in response to circumstances, people, and events. Regardless of our culture or nationality, we inherently give thanks and rejoice with one another.
When I gather with my loved ones this Thanksgiving, I will be grateful for those who are still here, and for those who have passed on but still live in our hearts. I will give thanks for this country that has made life possible for us, and pray that others may find help and safety here too.
So, who then is the real first inventor of thanksgiving? The one who instilled it in our hearts.
Or as Lincoln said, “the beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Wishing you all much joy and many reasons for a Happy Thanksgiving.
See you next time on December 22nd.
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