~To the contrary of what most Americans believe…Thanksgiving is not about getting as many family members together as possible and eating as much and as many different types of foods as you can until you bust (that in fact is more towards the lines of gluttony, eating past the limit that you would normally eat past).
Thanksgiving celebrations go back as far as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans when they would hold feasts to pay tribute to their pagan gods (idols).
There is also a Jewish festival which is similar to or resembles that of Thanksgiving, Sukkot.
Native Americans conducted feasts celebrating the fall harvest long before the Pilgrims made it to America.
Long before the journey to America, Separatists and Puritans (Europeans) were already conducting days of fasting during difficult times and feasting in times of plenty, to thank God.
In 1565 Pedro Menendez de Avile had a dinner with the Timucua tribe, to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival.
On December 04, 1619, 38 British settlers, upon reaching Berkeley Hundred, read a proclamation to have that date “a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God”.
The festival, which is looked upon as the first Thanksgiving festival, was in 1621 after the Pilgrim’s first successful corn harvest (the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn). This festival lasted for three days and consisted of fowl, Lobster, Seal, and Swans (in addition to the harvested corn). The Native Americans contributed deer meat to the festival feast. There were no desserts.
The next festival of Thanksgiving did not occur until 1623, when thanks was given for the end of the long drought. This Thanksgiving consisted of fasting.
After this, festivals of Thanksgiving were held once or many more times throughout a year to give thanks after a major event…drought, victory in war, harvests, safe voyages…
In 1789 George Washington issued the first proclamation of Thanksgiving for the people to offer thanks for the U.S. Constitution and the end of the independence war.
In 1817 New York adopted the festival of Thanksgiving, it was held on different days throughout the North. The South did not observe the festival of Thanksgiving.
In 1863 Abraham Lincoln instituted a proclamation for the festival of Thanksgiving…”Americans ask God to “Commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation”. It was held on the final Thursday of November.
In 1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the festival of Thanksgiving up a week from the final Thursday of November, and called it Franksgiving.
In 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill to make it the 4th Thursday in November, Americans were opposed to his previous move of the festival.
It appears as though Thanksgiving can be held at any time a person or group of people want to thank God for a blessing or overcoming a difficult time. The government of America has designated a specific day once a year for the event of holding a celebration to thank Almighty God for all that He has done. It is quite different from the image I received of it when I was young…I thought it was just a time to be thankful for what you had, eat as much or more than you could, display as many different foods as your budget would allow and have as many family members present as possible. The truth is quite different than the illusion.