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Why we should not celebrate Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is generally taught as an acceptable holiday to celebrate in the larger congregations of God. But this acceptance is based primarily on the belief that the Pilgrims created Thanksgiving. But the origins of Thanksgiving are a combination of superstition, myths and false Christianity, similar to Christmas, Easter, Halloween.

Summary of this paper

  1. Thanksgiving was not started by the Pilgrims, this is now a well known fact, and is widely reported by historians as a myth
  2. Two separate thanksgiving celebrations were brought to America, one a religious event, the other was a harvest festival
  3. The harvest festival was a pagan celebration, the religious thanksgiving was from the Church of England
  4. The King of England proclaimed days of thanksgiving during the American colonial period, without the influence of Pilgrims or Puritans
  5. In the 1800s Sarah Hale marketed the idea of a universal national American thanksgiving holiday that combined the religious thanksgivings with the harvest festival thanksgivings
  6. Sarah Hale specifically and repeatedly stated that she intended to combine God's harvest festivals with Thanksgiving Day
  7. The cornucopia is a Greek & Roman religious symbol that can be traced back directly to the time of Jesus and further into the past
  8. Removing the pagan elements does not change the pagan origins of any holiday
  9. Our current justifications for observing Thanksgiving Day are based on misinformation and myths

What makes a holiday pagan?

The Christmas tree and Easter bunny are not the only things that make Christmas and Easter pagan, and removing them would not make either celebration "Christian". And likewise, removing the cornucopia, or traditions like "breaking the wish bone", would not change the history or intent of Thanksgiving.  What truly makes a holiday pagan is its history and origins, regardless of its decorations or activities.


The history and origins of Thanksgiving (why it's pagan)

The Pilgrims did not start Thanksgiving, in fact the Pilgrims have almost nothing to do with the origins of Thanksgiving at all and were not associated with the holiday for well over 200 years after the "first thanksgiving". So where did Thanksgiving come from? The answer is a little complicated, but the bulk of it came from a pagan harvest celebration called Harvest Home, (also called harvest thanksgiving) which originated in England. This was combined with the religious act of "days of thanksgivings" that were practiced in the Church of England. (and still are today) Both the Pilgrims and the Puritans (which are two entirely separate groups, the "Pilgrims" were Separatists, not Puritans) practiced the act of setting aside a religious day of worship to "give thanks to God".

But the one key difference between the harvest thanksgiving and a religious one, is that the harvest thanksgiving was an annual celebration during the harvest season (autumn) and a religious thanksgiving was set aside any time of year, in response to divine intervention. Eventually these two events, along with other influences, merged into a single annual autumn celebration that combined religious worship services, large family gatherings, dances and a large meal. Until some time in the early 20th century, the harvest home and Thanksgiving celebrations were one and the same. News reports and stories from the late 19ths and early 20th century seem to indicate that our modern Thanksgiving is more harvest home than a Puritan thanksgiving, the first being a joyous celebration, the later a solemn church service.

... on Thursday last, the rural feast of the in-gathering, the harvest-home; not the half somber New-England Thanksgiving, but a joyful service of praise to God for the blessings of the year, modeled after the church festivals of this character, common in the rural districts of England.
Harvest Home Amid the Golden Woodlands
October 15, 1871 The New York Times (source)

The cornucopia, the Christmas tree and Easter bunny of Thanksgiving

The cornucopia, a common symbol of Thanksgiving, originated from Roman and Greek mythology, from the horn of the Greek god Amalthea. But this symbol has spread all over the world, including England. The Masons used the cornucopia in ceremonies and openly recognized it as a pagan symbol. The cornucopia is on money in many countries dating back thousands of years, it's on country and state flags, it's the logo for the world's oldest central bank and can be found in architecture and art dating back to Jesus' time on earth. It is also prevalant on the Roman denarius, possibly even the exact coin mentioned by Jesus in scripture (Matt 22:19-21). There is more detailed and clearly traceable pagan history of the cornucopia than the Easter bunny or the Christmas tree.


Does Thanksgiving "alter or replace" the meaning of God's festivals?

We already know what God's festivals are and what they mean, our perspective is one based on understanding and knowledge. But what about the rest of the nation? Does Thanksgiving "replace" or "alter the meaning" of God's holy days for everyone else?

Dear Lord, our God and Saviour! ... THAT the American People shall have an annual Thanksgiving Festival after the ingathering of their harvests is now a settled matter. Every State and Territory has, in some way, signified its willingness to adopt this venerable custom, which we recognize in the Jewish “Feast of Weeks ,” as appointed by Jehovah for His Chosen People.
Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1859

Well did that patriot divine, Rev. Charles Wadsworth, exclaim, in his last Thanksgiving sermon- “Thanks be unto God for this American Pentecost! Never were the bonds of our beloved brotherhood so revealed in their strength! Never before did so many sister States keep lovingly together this feast of harvest. It is the gathering of the one great household with offerings of praise to the one common temple- the central Salem of peace- the God of love.”
Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1860

Sarah Hale holds the unofficial title of the "The Mother of Thanksgiving", she is given credit for almost single handedly marketing the idea of a nationally observed Thanksgiving to state governors and US presidents in a campaign that lasted decades. Based on her words, yes, thanksgiving "alters and replaces" God's festivals, especially for those that do not know the meaning of God's holy days.


Thanksgiving is a holy day (holidays are holy days)

The Pilgrims did not consider Christmas a "holiday", they called it a "holy day". Only in recent times has there been a distinction made between holiday and holy day. Even our modern dictionaries consider them synonymous. (dictionary.com/holiday)  To the Pilgrims, Puritans and common language of 200 years ago, there simply is no difference between them when referring to a day set aside from work.

Thanksgiving Day (as a national celebration) was instituted with the intent, and by design, to be a holy day, not an ambiguously labeled "holiday". There is no uncertainty about this, as we have primary historical references that prove this intent.

A holy day is added to our days of rest from worldly labors; a third joyful anniversary is sealed for the American Republic.
Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1865

Besides the Sabbath, [New Haven Colonists in 1643] recognize but two holy days throughout the year, the Fast Day in the Spring, and the Thanksgiving Day in the Autumn.
The Christian Recorder, January 1866

...consecrate the last Thursday in the month
Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1861

Christians of any nation or creed could meet together, this happy, hallowed festival
Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1861

The last Thursday in November, let it be consecrated
Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1865

'Tis the holy spirit of Thanksgiving Day. ...That all may offer up, in one grand melody, that glorious hymn to the Creator, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.”
Godey's Lady's Book 1872


This belief is still held today.

"The day of our ship's arrival ... shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God." In response, the men fell to their knees in prayer. And with this humble act of faith, the settlers celebrated their first Thanksgiving in the New World.
President Bush, 2007 Radio Address

To clarify any possible misinterpretations, or misunderstandings about viewing Thanksgiving as a holy day in itself and a replacement or copy of God's holy days.

Thanks be unto God for this American Pentecost!
Rev. Charles Wadsworth quoted by Sarah Hale, Godey's Lady's Book 1860

The first Thanksgiving on record - since the Feasts of Tabernacles, for those were the Thanksgivings of the Jews
Godey's Lady's Book 1870

An annual religious festival observed in the United States, particular in New England, suggested by the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles, or feasts of ingathering at the end of the year.
The Christian Recorder, January 17, 1889

We will have a glorious time at Thanksgiving!...All our family will then be gathered together, like the Jews at the feast of Tabernacles.
The Merchant Farmer, Godey's Lady's Book 1839

These were the Passover; The Feast of Pentecost; and, The Feast of Tabernacles. Then He commanded them to keep annually a Holy Day, called The Day of Atonement. All these days and feasts which we have named, were ordained and kept by the expressed command of God, from which we draw our warrant, to have and to hold days of thanksgiving
Bishop Campbell, The Christian Recorder 1870 (emphasis added)

It must be clearly understood, without any doubt what so ever, that the generations of the past had no confusion about the intentions or meanings of Thanksgiving or what a holy day was intended to be. There are many more sources that confirm that the idea of a "holiday", in it's current form, is a relatively new concept in an ever increasing secular world.


The Pilgrims preemptively rejected Thanksgiving Day (as a holy day)

It is recorded that the Pilgrims did set aside time to give thanks to God, not as an anniversary, but only in response to an event they deemed providential. They did not proclaim any annual days as "holy". Here is an excerpt from the writings of John Robinson, the religious leader of the Pilgrims. Robinson clearly stated that they should reject all man-made holy days, this would include Thanksgiving.

OF HOLY DAYS.
IT seemeth not without all leaven of superstition, that the Dutch reformed churches do observe certain days consecrated as holy to the nativity [Christmas], resurrection, and ascension of Christ [Easter], and the same also (as it commonly comes to pass where human devices are reared up by the side of Divine institutions) much more holy than the Lord's-day [sabbath], by him himself appointed.

And for this, first we are taught by Moses, thus speaking unto the people of Israel in the name of the Lord: "Verily, my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you,"Exod. xxxi. 13, that it appertains unto God alone (and to no man, or angel) as to sanctify whether person, or thing,so to institute the signs, or means of sanctification, of which number holy days are. I add, if the Lord as Jehovah,and the God of his people Israel, Exod. xx. 8, and supreme lawgiver, do ordain the sanctification of a day in the decalogue, how far should God's servants be, either magistrates from taking this honour of God unto themselves by commanding a holy day ; or subjects by observing it, to give the same unto any other save God alone ?

2. It was not the least part of Israel's defection, first in the wilderness, afterwards under Jeroboam, that they ordained a feast to Jehovah, whom they represented to themselves by the golden calves which they had made.

3. Seeing that every first day of the week, called by John,the Lord's-day, is consecrated by Christ himself and his apostles to the memorial of Christ's resurrection, and God's solemn worship ; it seems too much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary memorial, and the same most solemn and sacred, of the same resurrection, or so to observe it.

Lastly. That you may see it was a man, from whom this device came, and so erred, as one saith, (not to meddle with the uncertainty either of the day of the month, or month of the year in which Christ was born, as it is most certain on the contrary that this twenty-fifth of December cannot be the time), what good reason, I would know, can be rendered.-why a day should be consecrated rather to tho birth, circumcision, and ascension of Christ, limn to his death, seeing that tho Scriptures everywhere do ascribe our redemption and salvation to his death, and passion in special manner?
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers Vol 3
By John Robinson, Robert Ashton- Chapt: 5, page 43,44

( Read more: The Pilgrim leaders on religious anniversaries and holy days )

The Pilgrims understood that Christmas and Easter were "holy days" not holidays, and that they were based on superstition. They even point out the illogical reasoning behind Christmas' timing and deftly refer to the scriptures where Israel created their own celebrations to God ( 1 Kings 12:32-33 ) which ultimately lead to their demise. ( 1 Kings 13:33,34 )

Our current reasons for approving of Thanksgiving

Here is the conclusion from a booklet from COGWA and UCG booklets.

What About National Holidays Like Thanksgiving, Purim and Hanukkah?

Both of these holidays [Purim and Hanukkah] were established to give thanks to God, just as the American and Canadian Thanksgiving days are. Though some modern customs of these days may not be pleasing to God, they are not rooted in paganism and do not subvert any of the truths presented in the festivals of God.
From Holidays to Holy Days: God's Plan for You, COGWA Booklet

What About Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Purim?

Important differences in the background and intent of these observances are obvious when we compare them to Christmas, Easter and Halloween. ... Neither celebration [Purim and Hanukkah] originated in paganism...

In their original form, Hanukkah and Purim, like the American holiday of Thanksgiving, are celebrations of thanks and honor to God for His intervention and blessings. The way some Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is far removed from the original intent, but that does not alter the real meaning and significance of the day.

An important distinction between acceptable holidays and those rooted in paganism (like Christmas and Easter) is that they do not alter, replace or distort the meaning of a festival of God or other biblical truths.
Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? UCG Booklet

Here's a summary of the stated beliefs on why Thanksgiving is acceptable to observe.
  1. Thanksgiving was "established to give thanks to God"
  2. Thanksgiving is "not rooted in paganism"
  3. Thanksgiving does "not subvert any of the truths presented in the festivals of God"
  4. Thanksgiving's "background and intent" are different from Christmas and Easter
  5. The "real meaning and significance" of Thanksgiving is not the same as it used to be
  6. There are "acceptable holidays" based on the idea that they are not "rooted in paganism" and "do not alter, replace or distort the meaning of a festival of God or other biblical truths."
How many of these statements are really true? God encourages us to "prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2) Do these statements have any proof or historical evidence to substantiate them?

How deceived are we?


Tomorow's World Magazine cover with cornucopia for Thanksgiving article.
Christmas is a deceitful holiday because it purports to honor Jesus' birth and Easter because it falsely honor's Jesus' resurrection. Thanksgiving is deceitful because it represents a false harvest. If you have access to a UCG song book, turn to page 113, you may be surprised to find a pagan harvest song "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come". Which is a song for the harvest home. The scripture quoted at the top is Exodus 34:22 "You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks..." the same harvest festival Sarah Hale stated may be replaced with Thanksgiving, using the same scriptures. In 1971, Tomorrow's World magazine featured the cornucopia on the cover for the lead store on Thanksgiving. This would not have happened if people knew the cornucopia was as pagan as a Christmas tree. How many baptised members of God's people are decorating their homes this year with pagan symbols, and are unaware?

...beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise? You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.
Deut. 12:30-32
Thus says the LORD, "Do not learn the way of the nations..."
Jere. 10:2
Scripture is clear that we are not to imitate or copy the religions of the world, and commanded us saying "You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God." (Deut. 12:31) Thanksgiving day is not God's harvest celebration or holy day, it is the nation's harvest celebration and holy day.

"I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,"
Deut. 12:30-32
Under what authority do we have to add to his appointed feasts? God gave us his holy feast days as time for us to gather with his family, to rejoice and give honor, thanks and glory to him. Are Purim and  Hanukkah different? Yes, in one distinct way, they are not harvest festivals that claim the same meaning and purpose as God's holy harvest festivals.


Historical analysis of Thanksgiving

It seems impossible to find the complete truth about the origins of Thanksgiving in any one particular place. There are many historical aspects to understand about the history of Thanksgiving, like who the Pilgrims really were, why the King of England punished people for not keeping thanksgivings he proclaimed, how the Puritans persecuted the Pilgrims, how the forefathers dealt with the religious conflicts with proclaiming thanksgivings, why Lincoln did not get credit for starting Thanksgiving after his first proclamations and much more. You can read a moderately complete analysis and recounting of Thanksgiving's history here: congregationsofgod.org/thanksgiving

Here's a list of the general subjects covered:
  1. The Origins of Thanksgiving (James Baker)
  2. The Truth about Thanksgiving Day
  3. Why the Pilgrims? Mythology and Thanksgiving Day.
  4. Defining Thanksgiving Day. What is it?
  5. Thanksgiving vs thanksgiving, The Thanksgiving Dichotomy
  6. Religious Thanksgiving Proclamations
  7. Religious oppression and the political landscape
  8. The Founding Fathers and an end to government Thanksgiving
  9. Sarah Hale, The Mother of Thanksgiving
  10. Sarah Hale's Thanksgiving campaign
  11. Why the “last Thursday of November”?
  12. When did Thanksgiving Day become a national legal holiday?
  13. Is Thanksgiving Day Holy?
  14. The Pilgrim leaders on religious anniversaries and holy days
  15. Holy Days or Holidays?
  16. The Cornucopia