Puritan Holiday

Published 10/17 2012 02:09PM

Updated 10/17 2012 02:10PM

The American Thanksgiving also has its origin in the faith practices of Puritan New England, where strict Calvinist doctrine sanctioned only the Sabbath, fast days and thanksgivings as religious holidays or "holy days." To the Puritans, a true "thanksgiving" was a day of prayer and pious humiliation, thanking God for His special Providence. Auspicious events, such as the sudden ending of war, drought or pestilence, might inspire a thanksgiving proclamation. It was like having an extra Sabbath during the week. Fasts and thanksgivings never fell on a Sunday. In the early 1600s, they were not annual events. Simultaneously instituted in Plymouth, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Thanksgiving became a regular event by the middle of the 17th century and it was proclaimed each autumn by the individual Colonies.

The holiday changed as the dogmatic Puritans of the 17th century evolved into the 18th century's more cosmopolitan Yankees. By the 1700s, the emotional significance of the New England family united around a dinner table overshadowed the civil and religious importance of Thanksgiving. Carried by Yankee emigrants moving westward and the popular press, New England's holiday traditions would spread to the rest of the nation.

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