By Father John W. Hanley, OMI
We will soon celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Since the earliest days of our nation, citizens have gathered to give thanks to God for the blessings of the year.
But, thanksgiving celebrations did not begin with the United States. Indeed, from the very dawn of civilization, celebrations have been held to honor the gods who so blessed the people.
The ancient Greeks celebrated the feast of Thesmosphoria, to honor Demeter, the goddess of corn. The Romans celebrated the harvest festival of Cerelia, their goddess of corn. The ancient Chinese celebrated a harvest feast called Chung Chui, as thanksgiving to the gods for military victories and the harvest. The Jewish people celebrate even to this very day the feast of Sukkoth, a feast that began over three thosand years ago to celebrate the harvest and their forty years of wandering in the desert. Ancient Egypt honored the god Min in a celebration of the corn harvest.
Having come to a strange shore and having endured a very harsh first winter in the New World, the pilgrims had a particularly successful harvest the next year, a harvest full of corn, fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that was smoke cured for future use. They had beaten the odd, and Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress authorized a day of thanksgiving. In 1817, New York State began an annual celebration of thanksgiving. Many states followed suit, and in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving. Each year since, on the Fourth Thursday of November, we pause from our busy schedules and lives and we take stock of our blessings and thank the God, "from whom all blessings flow."
And so we come to Thanksgiving 2010, and we will go to family gatherings, to give thanks to God for our blessings, those of the past, the present, and those yet to come. On behalf of the Christian clergy of Tewksbury, allow me to extend an invitation to you to join with us in a community-wide Thanksgiving Prayer Service, to be held at Saint William Church on Sunday, November 21 at 7:00 P.M. May God be with you and your family as you gather for your Thanksgiving celebration.
Father John W. Hanley, OMI is pastor of the Church of St. William in Tewksbury.