History of Thanksgiving in the CRC?


Hey CRC Gang!

I grew up in a different Christian tradition. When I started attending and serving at a CRC church 5 1/2 years ago, I had some new traditions to learn. For example, I grew up gathering for worship on Christmas Eve. The practice of many CRC congregations has been to have worship on Christmas DAY. While this was strange to me at first, (simply because it was different to my experience) I quickly grew to love it! It just made sense...why wouldn't we meet on the day when we celebrate the birth of our long awaited Redeemer?!?

Another special day that our Church and many other CRC churches gather to worship is Thanksgiving Day. This too was new to me. But like meeting on Christmas Day, this just made sense. We give thanks to our great God as a church. This has easily become one of my favorite new traditions and I'm excited for those in our congregation who have joined in the last year who will be experiencing this for the first time. It may be different to them at first, but Lord willing, it will soon be one of their favorites as well.

So now for my question: How did this tradition begin? I typically think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday. So did this tradition of worshiping on Thanksgiving Day start when the CRCNA or other Dutch Reformed denominations began in America or did it begin another way?

I'm looking at some of you life-timers or historians for help! Either way, I pray you all have a joy planning for and experiencing this great time of giving thanks.

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In the early Reformation, Calvin and other Reformers were against celebrating any festival days because Rome had so many special days that were not ordained by God in Scripture and these tended to minimize the observance of the Lord's Day.  The Church Order at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), however, said that congregations shall observe Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the days of the Circumcision and Ascension of Christ.  According to a Church Order commentary by Van Dellen and Monsma, "rather than see these days given over to the danger of abuse and frivolity, the churches accommodated themselves to circumstances and began to celebrate these days after a fashion."  Since these were legal holidays in Holland, the church believed that they should hold services on these days "in order to turn a fruitless and harmful idleness into a holy and profitable exercise."  I imagine that at some point along the way, the Church Order added the celebration of Old and New Year's Day and Thanksgiving for the same reason.