One of the traditions we enjoy is to prepare slips of paper with Thanksgiving-related Scripture verses and quotations. We place them underneath each plate at the Thanksgiving meal. When the plates are taken up, we enjoy an interlude from eating to take turns reading each quotation aloud before desert.
Here are the quotes we put under the plates:
Moses (Leviticus 23.39-41): “After you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival [of Tabernacles] to the Lord for seven days; . . . take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come….”
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
The First American Thanksgiving: “The orthodox Puritans of New England objected to the observance of Christmas on the ground that this was a Catholic custom. Accordingly, except in Rhode Island, Christmas was not celebrated in New England at any time during the colonial period. The place of Christmas was taken by the Thanksgiving season. The custom of offering public thanks for material blessings, which had its origin in Europe before the Reformation, was first observed in English America in the fall of 1621, when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest by several days of feasting and thanksgiving…. From time to time in the seventeenth century a day was set aside for thanksgiving by the Puritans, and by the end of the century there had grown up in Massachusetts and Connecticut the practice of observing Thanksgiving regularly once a year. This holiday usually lasted about a week and was a time of festivity as well as one of religious observance.” (Chitwood, et al., The United States: From Colony to World Power; p. 83.)
Edward Winslow, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1621:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sente four men out fowling that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoyce together after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. These four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the company almost a week, at which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted…. And although it be not always so plentifull as it was at this time with us, yet, by the goodness of God, we are so farr from wante that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.”
William Bradford, 1590-1657; Of Plymouth Plantation:
“Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable Earth….”
George Washington: “Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday the Twenty-Sixth 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 beneficient 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.”
Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471): “Be thankful for the smallest blessing, and you will deserve to receive greater. Value the least gifts no less than the greatest, and simple graces as especial favors. If you remember the dignity of the Giver, no gift will seem small or mean, for nothing can be valueless that is given by the most high God….”
Turkey Talk: The North American turkey is native to Ontario, the United States and Mexico. Domesticated turkeys all over the world are descended from the wild turkey of North America. The Aztec Indians of southern Mexico domesticated them before the arrival of Europeans. The Spanish brought turkeys back to Europe after 1519, and turkeys eventually arrived in England around 1541. Turkeys were described, for instance, in Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias, published by Oviedo (1478-1557) in 1527. The French name for turkey is dindon, a shortened form of the earlier name coq d’inde: cock of the Indies. By West Indies they meant the Americas, of course. The Jesuits bred them in large numbers, and in some places the common name for turkey is jesuite. But then where did the English name for turkeys come from? The Portuguese used to capture African guinea-fowl, which they shipped to Europe through Turkish territory. For some time the African guinea-fowl and the North American Turkey were called by the same name, Meleagris (as in the classification of Linnaeus), until gradually “turkey” became restricted to the North American bird. Benjamin Franklin argued for the Turkey rather than the Bald Eagle to be our national bird.
James, a brother of Jesus (James 1.17): “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not vary or change like shifting shadows.”
Paul (1 Timothy 4:3): [Hypocritical liars] “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving…. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving….”
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
C.S. Lewis: “The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
The apostle John, in a vision (Revelation 7:12): “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Exodus 23: 14-17; 1 Chronicles 29:10-14; Psalm 50:23; 92:1-4; 100:1-5; 116:12-13, 17; 136: 1, etc.; Psalm 145; Jonah 2:2,9; Romans 1:21; Ephesians 5:19-20; Philippians 4:4-7; Colossians 2:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 7:12-17.
Psalm 145 also makes appropriate additional reading, or consider one of the antiphonal psalms, in which a leader and the rest of the family may read in turn (e.g., Ps. 118, 100-111; 140-150).
After the meal:
What a great time to read aloud Thanksgiving poetry and enjoy singing together!
Hymns and folk songs:
- Over the River and through the Wood (Thanksgiving Day, Lydia Child)
- Gather Round, ye thankful ones
- All good gifts (Godspell)
- For the Beauty of the Earth
- Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
- Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
- Come Ye Thankful People Come
- Now Thank We All Our God
- We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessings
These two poetry books are wonderful fun!
Finally, no list of our family Thanksgiving traditions would be complete without noting that we always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade first thing Thanksgiving morning. Then, before the end of Thanksgiving break, we watch Miracle on 34th Street, which makes a perfect bridge between Thanksgiving and Advent (more on that in the next post).