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Thanksgiving’s Christian Roots

November 23, 2017

We sometimes forget the religious motives of the first English colonists who settled at Jamestown in Virginia (Church of England) and Massachusetts Colony (Puritan). Both were respectful of Christianity and gave thanks upon reaching America after perilous journeys.

At what is called “First Landing” in 1607 in what is today Virginia Beach we learn that “On April 29, 1607, the settlers set foot at Cape Henry, which they named after the Prince of Wales. Here the colonists planted an oak cross specifically transported for that purpose, and Rev. Hunt offered his first official prayers to the Lord on North American soil. Hunt led the group of colonists in prayer and dedicated the land to God.”

The story of the Pilgrims and their “thanksgiving” in 1630 has become an American tradition. The “Pilgrims” were “Puritan” believers who were persecuted in England and fled to America where they established a theocracy. When Oliver Cromwell led Puritan forces against Charles I, some American Pilgrims returned to England to fight with Cromwell’s “Roundheads.”  In summer, you can take a ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey.  The Puritans who signed the death warrant for Charles I fled to Cape May after Charles II returned to the throne.

Our Thanksgiving today is less rowdy in spirit and religion is no longer a source of civil unrest. But we should not forget that these first celebrations of Thanksgiving were deeply felt and religious Christian events.

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