Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is celebrated on September 24 every year. Just like the regular Thanksgiving, this is also a day to express gratitude. Today, there are about 3,000 people who are members of Schwenkfelder churches. They continue to celebrate Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving in the Pennsylvania Dutch counties where they live. The celebrations are marked by a service held at one of the Schwenkfelder churches, on the Sunday closest to September 24. It is followed by a religious and historical address, which is followed by a meal. The meal is typical of the same foods that were eaten at the first Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving. The Pennsylvania legislature recognizes Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving.
History of Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving
In 1733, a small number of Schwenkfelder’s followers arrived in Philadelphia. A second group came from Germany on September 22, 1734. They swore their allegiance to the British king and two days later, they expressed gratitude to God for allowing them to flee persecution, by holding a thanksgiving service. As there were no crops to harvest, the Thanksgiving meal consisted of water, bread, butter, and apple butter.
The Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving event is the oldest continuously observed Thanksgiving in the United States. The traditional Thanksgiving was yet to be observed annually and uniformly across the nation. While the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, the observance wasn’t a popular practice among everyone. George Washington proclaimed the nation’s first Thanksgiving in 1789. And while his successors followed suit and Thanksgiving was accepted, the celebrations were still not consistent. In fact, it wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving for the last Thursday in November. There was now some uniformity in the celebrations and the nation gave thanks on that day until 1939. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the observance to the fourth Thursday, and that’s when it has been celebrated ever since.
The Schwenkfelders are the descendants of a small Protestant sect that popped up in Germany during the time of the Reformation. They were the devotees of Caspar Schwenkfeld, a theologian. He and his followers separated from Protestant circles and formed the brotherhoods that are still around today as the Schwenkfelder Church. The Schwenkfelder population has shrunk over the years, but most now live in Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving timeline
Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig is born in Poland.
Schwenkfelders start calling themselves Confessors of the Glory of Christ.
Schwenkfelders are fined, forced into slavery, and jailed by the government and Orthodox Churches in Europe.
The Schwenkfelder Church is incorporated in Pennsylvania.
Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving FAQs
What is Schwenkfelder religion?
A follower of Caspar Schwenckfeld who advances the cause of the Reformation, encourages laymen to read the Bible, and advocates the separation of church and state, are some of the markers of the Schwenkfelder sect.
Where did the Schwenkfelders come from?
Originally calling themselves Confessors of the Glory of Christ, the group later became known as Schwenkfelders. These Christians often suffered persecution like slavery, prison, and fines at the hands of the government and state churches in Europe. Most of them lived in southern Germany and Lower Silesia.
What denomination is central Schwenkfelder Church?
The denomination of the central Schwenkfelder Church is Christian.
How to Observe Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving
Attend a church service
Attend a Schwenkfelder Church service and see how the day is traditionally celebrated. It is also a good way to learn about Schwenkfelder history and culture.
Host a Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving meal
If you don’t have a Schwenkfelder Church nearby, you could celebrate the day by hosting a meal. A typical Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving meal consists of water, bread, butter, and apple butter.
Learn more about the Schwenkfelders
Learn more about Schwenkfelders by visiting the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center or the Society of the Descendents of the Schwenkfelder Exiles websites.
5 Facts About Butter That Will Blow Your Mind
It was once a precious commodity
Norsemen were buried with large tubs of butter to take with them into the afterlife.
It is a common archaeological find
In Ireland, one of the most common archaeological finds are barrels of butter buried in bogs.
It was presented at weddings
The English would present newlyweds with a pot of butter, symbolic of wealth and fertility.
It can also be used as fuel
In antiquity, butter was used for fuel in lamps.
India leads in butter production
India is the largest producer of butter.
Why Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is Important
A day of historical significance
Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is the longest and oldest continually celebrated Thanksgiving in America. The day has important historical significance.
A day to express thanks
On this day we sit down with our loved ones and express thanks to God for all the joys in our lives. We have so much to be thankful for.
A day to celebrate with friends
No Thanksgiving is complete without a hearty meal with your friends. This day is celebrated as a way of getting together with friends and spending quality time with them.
Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving dates