13 November 2010

Thanksgiving in America : The Story of Thanksgiving, Part 1 (Repost from 13 November 2009)

 On Thursday, November 26 this month, American families all across the United States will get together around the table to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and A Bountiful Thanksgivinggive thanks for the year's blessings. Even though its roots can be traced back to the European harvest festivals, this American holiday has deep religious roots from the Puritan tradition. However, Thanksgiving is not based on any one denomination allowing Americans of all faiths to celebrate. This is the first post in a series that will tell the Thanksgiving story.

Most stories of this day begin with the great feast celebrated by the Pilgrims with their Native American neighbors after a harsh winter. The Story of Thanksgiving goes back even farther to England at the beginning of the 17th century where a group of Puritans called Separatists, wanted to break from the Church of England denying its central authority. James I believed them to be a threat to his authority and the Separatists were fined, jailed and even executed for their religious beliefs. The Separatists had to worship in secret and in fear of persecution since all churches other than that of the state were illegal. They sought to leave England but to do so required permission from the king since leaving England without this permission resulted in imprisonment. Somewhere around 1607 or 1608, permission was granted allowing a group to leave for Holland where there was religious tolerance.
The congregation settled in the Dutch industrial town of Leiden where some were able to find work to support their families working in the various trades or in the university. Others had difficulty due to cultural and language barriers. By 1617 the Separatists decided that they needed to leave Holland for a couple of reasons. First their children were starting to adopt Dutch customs and habits they believed to be ungodly. Thirdly, the political situation risked becoming unstable and they feared how a Spanish Holland would treat them. Last of all, they believed that missionary work compelled them to spread the Gospel. A debate arose on where they should go, finally they decided that the territory north of the Virginia Colony which would be called New England was the best place for them to go.

Learn more about the Puritans HERE

Learn more about the Pilgrims in Leiden HERE

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