Anybody out there who in elementary school put your hand on a piece of paper, traced around it, then colored in the Thanksgiving turkey? I thought so. Remember the construction paper Pilgrim hats, bonnets, and Indian headdresses we made and wore? Then we'd hear the story of the FIRST THANKSGIVING again: how the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, nearly starved to death, lost half their number, and were saved when local Indians brought them food and helped show them how to raise corn, etc. Then, in 1623 the feast of Thanksgiving, with red and white enjoying the bounty.

Like a lot of simple stories, this one is both false and true. The false part is that it was not the first Thanksgiving. The original landing party on the James River in what became Virginia had a Day of Thanksgiving in 1619, beating the Pilgrims to become the first Thanksgiving. But, the true part is that it was the tradition of the Pilgrims that spread throughout New England and eventually across the northern states observed on various days. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. (FDR moved it forward a week to give a longer Christmas shopping season.)

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Thanksgiving has been a religious day for many. The Episcopalians (the Church of England in the states became the Protestant Episcopal Church after the Revolution) in 1789 announced they would hold yearly Thanksgiving observances. In large part through them, and through their much more popular step-daughter Methodism, English harvest festival traditions and worship became part of our heritage. Of course, Anglicans did not invent harvest festivals. It is a nearly universal human practice to give thanks to the Divine for the bounty of the earth and sea.

Have a real Thanksgiving: pray. And read Scripture. This year I recommend Psalm 65, and Habbakuk 3:17-19. Happy Thanksgiving.