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Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving

Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving is the longest continually-celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States. Between 1731 and 1737, six groups of Schwenkfelders, a small religious sect formed in Germany by Caspar Schwenkfeld around the time of the Reformation, came to North America in order to flee religious persecution in Europe. Numbering 209 people total, they settled in the Pennsylvania-Dutch region. The largest group, numbering 170 people and making up 44 families, arrived on September 22, 1734. Two days later, they gave thanks to God for allowing them to flee persecution, by holding a thanksgiving service and sharing a meal. As they didn't have any crops to harvest, their meal consisted of water, bread, butter, and apple butter.

Today, about 3,000 people are members in Schwenkfelder churches, and they still celebrate Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving, in the Pennsylvania Dutch counties where they live. Each year, a service is held at one of the Schwenkfelder churches, on the Sunday closest to September 24. A religious and historical address is made and is followed by a meal consisting of the same foods that were eaten at the first Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving. The day has been acknowledged by the Pennsylvania legislature.

How to Observe Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving

The ideal way to celebrate the day is to attend a Schwenkfelder church service and eat a Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving meal afterward. If you can't make it to Pennsylvania to visit a Schwenkfelder church, you could have a meal of water, bread, butter, and apple butter at home. You could also spend the day learning more about Schwenkfelders, by visiting the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center or browsing the website for the Society of the Descendents of the Schwenkfelder Exiles.

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