Many special days of thanksgiving have been observed from time immemorial. In medieval Eng., Lammas (from loaf + mass; popularly apprehended as from lamb + mass) Day (August 1; feast of St. Peter's Chains in the RC calendar; cf. Acts 12:3, 67) was probably a thanksgiving at which bread from first ripe grain was used at mass. Special forms of thanksgiving for abundant harvests were occasionally authorized from the end of the 18th c.. The custom of using bread from first ripe grain at mass was revived in the early 1840s; an annual thanksgiving soon replaced, or was combined with (cf. Ger. Erntedankfest), the traditional Harvest Home, which was a celebration in which thanksgiving was not necessarily prominent. The proposed Rev. Prayer Book of 192728 provided a collect, Epistle, and Gospel for such a day; the 1789 Am. Prayer Book has a form for thanksgiving.
In the US, the Pilgrim Fathers observed an occasion of thanksgiving perhaps on arrival 1620, surely no later than their 1st harvest 1621. In course of time other days of thanksgiving were observed. Thanksgiving Day as a nat. religious festival observed on the same day throughout the country dates from 1863. It was observed on the last Thursday in November through 1938. In 1939 it was moved to the 2d-last Thursday in November This met with widespread objection and led to confusion as to date of actual observance 193941. On basis of December 1941 congressional action, Thanksgiving Day is the 4th Thursday in November See also Church Year, 17.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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