Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday even if it is not on the Church calendar and it is celebrated only in America. It is a clear example of a Church holiday which is not universal, like the others.
This American Feast Day has an established tradition which involves turkey, mashed potatoes, football, pumpkin pie, shopping and a four-day weekend.
It is fascinating how all these things have nothing to do with the original event that gave rise to the annual celebration on the fourth Thursday in November.
Did you know that?
Discover the Christian origins of Thanksgiving and how to live this special event.
Typical Thanksgiving Dinner in America.
Christian origin of Thanksgiving
According to the story, the Pilgrim Fathers, who were just Puritans at that time, came to Plymouth (Massachusetts) for religious freedom on a ship called Mayflower. Once they arrived at the new land, they had a big feast with Indians: this was the very first Thanksgiving.
This feast originated in 1621, when Governor Bradford of the Plymouth colony appointed a day for public praise and prayer after the first harvest. After that, this custom spread throughout the other New England colonies.
The very first national observance was when President Washington, in 1789, recommended Thursday 26 November to the people of the United States “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God”.
But how can Christians celebrate Thanksgiving, in such a religious way?
Discover our 5 religious tips to live Thanksgiving.
How to celebrate Thanksgiving as a good Christian
1. Remember the very “First” Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving universally means family, generosity and gratitude.
The word Eucharist itself means “to give thanks” and it is the most important moment of the Mass, in which men and women receive the Body of Christ.
In this way, long before the Pilgrims approached America and broke bread with the native inhabitants of New England, Jesus Christ, our Savior, celebrated the “First Thanksgiving ever” with His own body and blood, given to humanity for our Salvation.
So always remember that every time we celebrate Mass, we are basically thanking God for all His blessings and unconditional love for human beings.
2. Go to Mass and celebrate God
We know you really like traditions. But always remember that no amount of turkey or pumpkin pie is going to be a good gesture of thanksgiving as the Eucharistic Celebration.
Maybe many people would rather prefer to stay at home and celebrate this Feast with family and friends, but going to Mass, especially in the early morning, could be a cool way to start off the day. Furthermore, if you are going to go in the morning, you will have the whole day to spend together with your family and keep your traditions alive.
Going to Mass is not going to cancel your yearly family traditions linked to Thanksgiving.
You will rather celebrate the infinite love of God.
3. Be generous with people in need
Thanksgiving is such a nice occasion to spend time with our family, to eat delicacies and rest.
Do you ever think about all those people who are not so lucky to have a family around to celebrate with this Feast day?
There are thousands of homeless in the world, poor people who do not have a warm and comfy house and families to share this moment with.
In order to comply with one of the most peculiar Christian virtues that is Charity, dedicate part of this Feast Day to these less fortunate people in need of a hand up.
If you cannot go and assist them for whatever reason, there is another easy thing you can always do: praying for others. You will see how it will make you feel better!
If you usually use rosaries for your prayers, you may dedicate some of your rosary’s beads to all these poor people in need.
These rosewood and crystal beaded rosaries recall the typical colors of Thanksgiving and Fall season in America, which are brown and orange.
Use them for your generous prayers or give them to a Catholic in need.
Rosewood Rosary Bead
Orange Crystal Rosary Bead
4. Be thankful and pray
How could you be on Thanksgiving day, if not thankful?
Think about all the beautiful things you have in life, all your personal achievements, your fortunes, your work goals, and your loved family. Always be thankful for that.
Express your feeling of gratitude towards the living God who gave us life, shelter, clothing, food, family and health, through prayer, especially before the Thanksgiving meal.
You can recite these short prayers before and after eating.
- Prayer before eating:
[Sign of the Cross]
Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty.
Through Christ, our Lord.
- Prayer after eating:
We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits,
Who live and reign for ever and ever.
5. Celebrate your religious freedom
Pilgrims who arrived in America were Puritans, escaping from their own hometown for religious persecution in Europe.
Nowadays, many Catholics in the world still have to fight with bigotry and exclusion or are persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Always remember how fortunate you are to live out your faith in your own country and celebrate everyday the infinite love of God.
Celebrate the religious freedom that your country guarantees to every son of God and pray to the Lord asking Him to concede this grace to all the people in the world.