Is Thanksgiving a Christian Holiday? Holy Cross Religious Studies Professor Explains

Joanne Pierce, professor of religious studies. Photo by John Buckingham

The Conversation

Did you know that medieval Catholic traditions of thanksgiving prayers and feasting shaped the Protestant celebration of Plymouth’s pilgrims, leading to the modern Thanksgiving holiday?

In an article for The Conversation, Joanne Pierce, professor of religious studies at Holy Cross, breaks down the history behind the ritual of thanksgiving and the ways in which it has changed throughout time.

Pierce, who specializes in Catholic history and worship, believes that “behind the history and legend of the first Thanksgiving lies a rich story that illuminates the medieval Christian roots of the holiday.”

“Since the beginning of Christianity, the Eucharist, also called Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper, has been the primary worship service for Christians all over the world,” said Pierce. “The name itself comes from the ancient Greek word for thanksgiving, ‘eucharistia,’ although in part of the New Testament it is also called ‘the breaking of bread.’”

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