Thanksgiving arrives on Thursday making this week filled with family reunions, food, fun, travel, football games, Black Friday, and being thankful.

Not necessarily in that order.

The way we celebrate things today is quite different from how Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving feasts.

Historically, Pilgrims in The Commonwealth of Virginia held Thanksgiving services beginning in 1607. Days of prayer, not days of feasting, but services deeply grounded in religious beliefs and gratitude to their Heavenly Father.

Our national holiday stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. The colonist didn’t call it Thanksgiving, though.

Thanksgiving to them  was a religious holiday in which they would go to church and thank God for a specific event. The activities that autumn of 1621 – dancing, singing secular songs, playing games – wouldn’t have been allowed. Not religious. The feast was a secular celebration, so it never would have been considered a thanksgiving in the pilgrims’ minds.

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation for a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” established what we do today.

Interesting that the basis for our celebration remained the same as the early colonist feasts – thankfulness.

As you go about the preparations this week, spend some time thinking about the origins of the holiday and all the reasons you have to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!