Every year, Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is observed on September 24. Similar to the traditional Thanksgiving, this is a day to convey gratitude. Today, approximately 3,000 individuals are members of Schwenkfelder congregations. They continue to observe Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving where they reside in Pennsylvania Dutch counties. On the Sunday closest to September 24, a service is conducted at one of the Schwenkfelder churches to mark the occasion. It is then followed by a religious and historical address, then a meal. The meal is representative of the dishes served at the first Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving. The legislature of Pennsylvania recognizes the Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving.
The background of Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving
A handful of Schwenkfelder’s adherents arrived in Philadelphia in 1733. A second contingent arrived in America on September 22, 1734, from Germany. They swore allegiance to the British monarch, and two days later, they held a thanksgiving service to express gratitude to God for allowing them to escape persecution. The Thanksgiving meal consisted of water, bread, butter, and apple butter because there were no harvests to harvest.
The Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is the earliest continuously observed Thanksgiving in the United States. Thanksgiving had not yet been observed annually and uniformly across the country. While the first Thanksgiving celebration was conducted by the Pilgrims in 1621, it was not a universally celebrated holiday. In 1789, George Washington declared the nation’s first Thanksgiving.
And despite the fact that his successors followed suit and Thanksgiving was acknowledged, celebrations remain inconsistent. Abraham Lincoln did not declare a national Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday of November until 1863. There was now uniformity in the celebrations, and until 1939, the nation rendered thanks on this day. Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the observance to the fourth Thursday in 1939, and it has been observed on that date ever since.
The Schwenkfelders are the descendants of a minor German Protestant sect that emerged during the Reformation. They were the theologian Caspar Schwenkfeld’s followers. He and his adherents separated themselves from Protestant circles and founded the brotherhoods that continue to exist as the Schwenkfelder Church. Over the years, the Schwenkfelder population has decreased, but the majority now resides in Pennsylvania Dutch country.
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SCHWENKFELDER THANKSGIVING DATES