From the early days of history, people set aside a day of thanksgiving. Usually it was for a bountiful harvest. Some days of thanksgiving were declared for special events such as the safe return of a ship.
The ancients thanked their gods and goddesses. They offered fruits, vegetables, and cakes to the deities of their choice and begged for a good year to come.
Many countries today have a thanksgiving day of one kind or another. In Canada, it is combined with a celebration of the discovery of America and is held at the time we celebrate Columbus Day.
Mexico does much the same with its Dia de la Raza, or Day of the Race. People celebrate the discovery of America, emphasize the brotherhood of races, and thank God all on the same day.
In the U.S., Thanksgiving Day has a flavor all its own, and we’re not just talking about turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
We give thanks for our blessings in the current year, but we have a historic event to commemorate as well. We all have a woman, Sarah Hale, to thank for the “official” national holiday. But first, a history lesson.
In few places is Thanksgiving as colorful a celebration as it is here. We have turkeys to eat and Pilgrims to recreate in our plays. We remember and honor the Native Americans who helped these early Americans survive.
And we mark the foundation of a society where citizens elected leaders and made early laws of fair play and freedom.
New traditions are seeping into our traditional celebration, like watching a football game after dinner. But after all, it’s a free country, and we’re mighty thankful for that.
You may not be having duck, fish and deer for Thanksgiving dinner, as the Pilgrims did, but gathering with family and friends is probably in your plans.
What we think of as the first thanksgiving in 1621 was made possible in part by the Pilgrims friends and neighbors.
Massasoit, leader of the confederacy of Wampanoag tribes, and about 90 of his men, brought deer and other meats to the Pilgrim’s harvest celebration.
The Pilgrims certainly needed the friends. After a year in the New World, their numbers had declined by half and they had faced deprivation and hardship. The Wampanoag’s generosity was surely welcome.
Today, we still get along with a little help from our friends, neighbors and Creator. Let’s give thanks for our countrymen, our families, and our faith which help us through good and bad times.
Here are some not-widely known facts about the Pilgrims:
• Before the Pilgrims hired her, the Mayflower, a merchant vessel, was in the wine trade with France, and before that, the fish trade with Norway.
• The Pilgrims were actually called “Separatists” or “Calvinists”, and followed the spiritual and Biblical teachings of John Calvin.
• Before the Pilgrims sailed for the New World, they lived in Holland. (They were chased out of England).
• The Pilgrims did not name Plymouth. Captain John Smith explored the New England coast in 1614. He then gave his map to Prince Charles (who become King Charles), and Charles put English names on the map. Hence – Plymouth.
• In the Pilgrim household, the adults sat down for dinner and the children waited on them.
• Pilgrims used the word “corn” to refer to wheat, rye, barley, oats, peas and beans. “Indian corn” or “turkey wheat” referred to what we now know as corn.
* The Pilgrims did not use a fork to eat their Thanksgiving dinner feast.
Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, began a campaign in 1827 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Sarah Josepha Hale also wrote the song, Mary Had a Little Lamb.
In 1863, Hale was able to convince President Lincoln that a national Thanksgiving might unite the country after the Civil War. Lincoln declared two national Thanksgivings that year, August 6 celebrating the victory at Gettysburg, and the last Thursday in November.
In order to help the country economically, Franklin Delano Roosevelt lengthened the Christmas shopping season by declaring Thanksgiving for the next-to-the-last Thursday in November in 1939. In 1941, Congress permanently established the holiday as the fourth Thursday of November.
And that is your history lesson for the day. Feel free to share this new information via Facebook or other social media sites by visiting our website: www.valleybugler.com
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Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans! Eat well and love the ones you’re with.