Many have noticed the similarities between Thanksgiving and the Feast of Booths (Leviticus 23: 33-43), also known as the Feast of Tabernacles/Sukkot. Both have spiritual meaning, occur in the autumn, and feature plenty of food. The Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving around the time of the Feast of Booths–September or October, which corresponds to the seventh month (Tishri) on the sacred Hebrew calendar.
Leviticus 23: 33-43 (NASB) gives a detailed explanation of the Feast of Booths:
Again the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the Sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD. On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the LORD; it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious work. On exactly the fifteenth of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day, you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, So that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’”
The Feast of Booths is a reminder of the forty-year period in which the Hebrews lived in booths (temporary shelters) in the Sinai Desert. According to Zechariah 14: 16 (NASB), someday ALL nations–Jew and Gentile alike–will celebrate the Feast of Booths.
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
The Feast of Booths is the last of seven annual feasts listed in Leviticus 23. The other feasts in consecutive order are Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Pentecost), Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
Not all of the Biblical feasts involve food. For example, Yom Kippur is a fast, not a feast. The term “feast” in Leviticus 23 means a “holy convocation.” A holy convocation is a “dress rehearsal.” In other words, the Biblical feast days, which are GOD’S APPOINTED TIMES, are prophetic. The Feast of Booths foreshadows the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Jesus the Messiah and his bride, the Church) and the beginning of His Millennial reign.
The Sukkah (booth) is equivalent to the Chuppah (canopy) in a Jewish wedding.
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Although the Pilgrims and the Puritans celebrated Thanksgiving around the time of the Feast of Booths, no specific date was set until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November–and even that was iffy. FDR almost succeeded in changing the date to the third Thursday in November to comply with retailers who wanted to boost their sales by adding more shopping days before Christmas.
For more information explore the Plimoth Plantation website.