Skip to comments.Is “Thanksgiving” Catholic?
Posted on 11/24/2008 9:14:27 AM PST by Alex Murphy
This history books will tell you that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims in 1621. Not true.
An interesting bit of trivia is that the first American Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. The Native Americans and Spanish settlers held a feast and the Holy Mass was offered.
A second similar "Thanksgiving" celebration occurred on American soil on April 30, 1598 in Texas when Don Juan de Oñate declared a day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Catholic origins of Thanksgiving dont stop there. Squanto, the beloved hero of Thanksgiving, was the Native American man who mediated between the Puritan Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Squanto had been enslaved by the English but he was freed by Spanish Franciscans. Squanto thus received baptism and became a Catholic. So it was a baptized Catholic Native American who orchestrated what became known as Thanksgiving.
All that being said, Thanksgiving is traditional Protestant and marks the tradition of religious toleration (something in which the Puritan pilgrims did not actually believe - they set up a "theocracy").
My wife once taught at an high-church Episcopalian/Anglican classical school in Philadelphia. The school consciously played down the significance of Thanksgiving. Why? The reason is simple. At root, Thanksgiving commemorates the good fortune of political and ecclesiastical rebels against the Church of England and the Anglican tradition as a whole.
It all started with Richard Clyfton who was a Church of England parson in Nottinghamshire in the early 1600s. Clifton sympathized with the Separatists of that era. Separatists were Calvinistic non-conformists to the doctrine and liturgy of the Church of England. The Hampton Court Conference held by King James I (1604) condemned those who would not conform to the more outwardly Catholic usages in the Church of England (e.g. robes, candles, bowing the head at the name of Christ, processions). The result was that Richard Clyfton was defrocked and stripped of his clerical status in the Church of England. Shortly thereafter Richard Clyfton went to Amsterdam and was followed by his disciples: the Pilgrims.
These Pilgrims moved around a bit until finally coming to America in 1620. An interesting bit of trivia is that one child was born on board the Mayflower while at sea. The child was given the rather lame name: Oceanus. Poor child.
In 1621, the Pilgrims allegedly celebrated a happy meal with the Native Americans and the rest is history. So why would an Anglican school be against Thanksgiving? It celebrates those who defied the Church of England and the Crown of England.
Now that Im a no longer an Anglican and now a Catholic, things are a bit different. The penal laws of England regarding non-conformists affected not only the rigorous Calvinistic Puritans in England, but also the English Catholic recusants. The Pilgrims shared the same lot as the Catholic faithful of England. Interestingly enough, the Catholics who lived in Nottinghamshire where the Pilgrims originated were persecuted mercilessly.
So while Thanksgiving may celebrate the Calvinists Separatists who fled England, Catholics might remember the same unjust laws that granted the crown of martyrdom to Thomas More, John Fisher, Edmund Campion, et al. are the same injustices that led the Pilgrims to Plymouth.
Another bit of trivia is that the truly First Thanksgiving celebration occurred on American soil on April 30, 1598 in Texas when Don Juan de Oñate declared a day of Thanksgiving to be commemorated by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
And let everyone remember that Thanksgiving in Greek is Eucharistia. Thus, the Body and Blood of Christ is the true Thanksgiving Meal.
Trying to argue over who owns Thanksgiving is a childish sentiment. The holiday of Thanksgiving is neither Catholic nor Protestant, it is American.
I’m Catholic and this is silly.
You make me laugh so hard!!!
I find the post to be informative and interesting. Discussing history is never childish but responding to the discussion in a snotty two sentence blurb is.
Individual state governors had the option of proclaiming a Thanksgiving Day. Abraham Lincoln made it official.
(This is the bare-bones info we tell visitors to our PA historical society when we display a traditional colonial-era Thanksgiving/harvest feast each year.)
Can we please stop it with this overuse of the word, "actually," to mean: "Contrary to your pathetic mistaken belief"?
(OK...so I made it up. But it makes are much sense as trying to tie this to a specific religion.)
Amen. There’s plenty of interesting historical facts connected with the act of Thanksgiving and the only thing about it that is “American” is eating Turkey in late November. Christians have been giving thanks for nearly 2000 years.
Too true. I inherited a souvenier "Official First Annual Berkeley Plantation Thanksgiving and Carnival" t-shirt, handed down from my great-great-great grandparents. A distant relative bought it at one of the concession stands at the Plantation. Rumor has it the batter fried turkey-on-a-stick was overrated that day, but the beer was reasonably priced.
The above is an interesting but slightly biased narrative.
The Catholic CHurch was every bit as rigorous in its persecution of “heretics” as the Protestants were of each other and Catholics.
The entire reformation period was a most unfortunate one as while fellow Christians were slaughtering each other - frequently over trivial matters nobody could ever prove one way or another - despite the very similar beliefs of all of them, the Muslims were advancing west and north out of Asia and Africa into Central Europe and the central Mediterranean are even going as far afield as England Ireland the North Atlantic to secure Christian slaves.
HISTORY IS REPEATING ITSELF.
This time Christianity is destroying itself from within over issues involving activist non-traditional clergy while Islam is in the heart of Europe and threatening the Americas and the un-Muslim parts of Africa.
An Anglican priest I know used to remark that in the two national holidays on ECUSA’s calendar (Indpenedence Day and Thanksgiving Day), the Anglicans were the bad guys.
That said, Thanksgiving is neither just Catholic, nor Anglican nor Protestant. It’s simply Christian. We give thanks to God for our many blessings.
Isn’t Catholicism what the pilgrims were running away from?!
Anglicanism which they felt was too Catholic.
“Most if not all farming peoples of Europe had a tradition of gathering together for a feast to celebrate the ingathering of a successful harvest.”
I also seem to recall that the European kings of yore would declare days of Thanksgiving (feast days) for auspicious events such as an heir being born or what not. This “power” was inherited by our govenors in the new republic.
One could equally argue that the Pilgrims were fleeing Holland, which was, well, too Dutch.
I think Harvest Festivals are something most societies have.
The Indians had one before the Pilgrims came here and the Israelites had a harvest festival too.
It was those “Dutch Treat” dates!!