- Author: Frank McPherson
As we close for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I want to take a few minutes to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving.
For many of us, Thanksgiving has traditionally included a four-day weekend, time with family, lots of food, football, and parades. This Thanksgiving, I encourage everyone to consider, the first “thanksgiving”, a simple gathering of pilgrims, giving thanks for what they had been blessed with and not the holiday we celebrate today.
The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was bitter and harsh, 46 of the 102 original pilgrims lost their lives and it was only with the help of 91 Wampanoag Native Americans that the remaining pilgrims survived. To celebrate their survival, the Pilgrims and Native American Indians jointly celebrated a traditional English harvest festival to give thanks.
Thanksgiving wasn't celebrated again until 1676, when the community of Charlestown, Massachusetts celebrated their good fortune of having recently defeated the same native Indians whose ancestors helped the pilgrims survive that first harsh winter at Plymouth Rock. One hundred years went by before Thanksgiving was celebrated again to mark the victory of the 13 colonies over the British at Saratoga. In 1789 George Washington proclaimed it a holiday, and in 1863 Lincoln proclaimed it to be on the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday.
Understanding the history of Thanksgiving gives us perspective as to why and how we celebrate the day of “thanksgiving” today. Over the years our customs have changed. This year, I hope we come together to celebrate common purpose, reconcile differences, share our victories and struggles, teach our young and continue to extend ourselves to those less fortunate. Celebrations this year will not be the same as in past years. This year has been filled with turmoil and for many of us, this has meant staying away from those we care about most.
The Pandemic has changed everything we do. This year family gatherings are not encouraged, shopping is discouraged, and air travel is not recommended. Many of us will be at home this year, either alone, or gathering with our immediate family. Even with these restrictions, there are still things we can do to enjoy the holiday. There are ways to keep our gatherings small. We can create new experiences, gather remotely, prepare a favorite recipe over video chat, prepare a traditional recipe, drop off food, notes, and gifts of gratitude to family and friends
Finally, I want to encourage all of us to be thankful for what we have, health, safety, adequate food, clothing, shelter, and many material blessings. This winter, and holiday season, I encourage you to communicate with someone in your life (verbally, by email, or write them a handwritten note) and let them know that you appreciate them. It will make them, and you feel better. Our community has faced many challenges this year and we have gotten through them seamlessly, thanks to YOU! This holiday season, please take good care of yourselves and each other. -Frank
A few readings on the history of Thanksgiving and Native American views of this holiday.