Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal


by Doug Reynolds, Head of School


Thanksgiving offers a wonderful break for extended time with our families. Many of us enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, playing touch football or other traditions. I’d like to share the origins of Thanksgiving in our country and some reflections from three leaders in our nation’s history.




The first North American Thanksgiving was actually celebrated in 1578 in northern Canada, more than a generation before the American colonies were settled. An explorer named Frobisher held a Thanksgiving service on Baffin Island (in the current province of Nunavut). He was grateful to God for safety on his long journey trying to discover a northwest passage from England to India.


In the United States, we trace the Thanksgiving service to the Pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts. They held a celebration thanking God for a good harvest in 1621. The governor of the Plymouth colony, William Bradford, wrote this about an early Thanksgiving –


“And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving… By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God.”


Thanksgiving was first observed as a national holiday in the US in 1777, when the Continental Congress passed a resolution initiated by one of the more outspoken Christians of the Congress, Sam Adams of Boston. The final version of the law reads:


“FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it pleased him in his abundant Mercy to do so…..

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance;”


The celebration of Thanksgiving continued, but not as an official holiday until 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed the final Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day. The proclamation, actually written by his Secretary of State, William Seward, read, in part, that the United States should:


“set apart and observe the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.”


Each of these three important proclamations about Thanksgiving recognizes that God is the giver of all good things and that we should pause to thank Him for these blessings. Very striking is that in the proclamations of both Adams and Seward, our nation was also specifically asked to prayerfully repent of our sins and rely on the mercy of God for His forgiveness. In this respect, Thanksgiving is the most “Christian” of all of our official American holidays.


May you have a blessed Thanksgiving break with your families! We are thankful to the Lord for his marvelous mercy and blessing this year as a school and as individuals!


Sign up

Recent Posts