In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is now celebrated every year on the 4th Thursday of November.
It is a day that many halt their busy routines to reflect on things to be thankful for. It is also a day filled with eating traditional meals with family and friends, watching football games, and strategically planning to shop Black Friday sales.
What is supposed to be the purpose of Thanksgiving Day?
Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
President George Washington established the first nationwide Thanksgiving Day celebration by a proclamation. These are the words penned in 1789:
[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
We should not forget the purpose of this first nationwide Thanksgiving Day celebration.
…a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…”
It is important to spend time during these special holidays to be thankful and express our gratitude.
Thanksgiving as a Small Group
Consider making one of your small group gatherings a Thanksgiving Day celebration.
Discuss God’s promises. Give each member an opportunity to talk about things they are thankful for. Spend time in prayer and worship, thanking God for what He has done and continues to do.
Who Else to Give Thanks
Identify others you are thankful for. If you need some ideas, here are some to get you started:
- Family and friends
- Church staff, leaders, and helpers
- Teachers, teacher aides, and school staff
- Business leaders, co-workers and customers
- Community workers (including police, fire fighters, and government workers)
- Healthcare professionals who look after you
Ways to Give Thanks
Spend time during your small group Thanksgiving Day to find ways to thank people in your life. Try one of these ways to show your appreciation or be creative with your own heartfelt method:
- Send a handwritten note that expresses your thankfulness
- Tell the person face-to-face how grateful you are for them being in your life
- Deliver them a simple gift
- Find a way to help others and “pay it forward” (support a family/person in need, homeless shelter, food bank, etc.)
Give Thanks Year-Round
Thanksgiving Day shouldn’t be the only time you show your love and appreciation to others. Set aside other times throughout the year to spend significant time being in a mindset of gratitude, thanking God and others.
Giving thanks doesn’t just benefit the other person. You will receive benefits from doing it as well. You will begin to feel happier and more relaxed. In fact, it has been proven in studies that being grateful can have a positive effect on your health. It can reduce your stress and boost your immune system.
Why wouldn’t you look for every opportunity to show your thankfulness? Get your small group involved and give thanks on a regular basis throughout the year.
Question: What are some ways your small group has celebrated Thanksgiving Day? You can leave a comment by clicking here.