Thanksgiving is America's preeminent day. It is when we usher in the Christmas season. It is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in the month of November. It has a very interesting history. Its origin can be traced back to the 16th century when the first thanksgiving dinner is said to have taken place.
Journey of Pilgrims
The legendary pilgrims, crossed the Atlantic in the year 1620 in the Mayflower-A 17th Century sailing vessel. About 102 people traveled for nearly two months with extreme difficulty. This was so because they were kept in the cargo space of the sailing vessel. No one was allowed to go on the deck due to terrible storms. The pilgrims comforted themselves by singing Psalms- a sacred song. Nearly every American would love to lay claim to being a descendant of one of the Mayflower passengers. As far as I know, there were no passports given out, but we do know quite a few of their names. As far as I know, none of the Douglas Clan was aboard.
Arrival in Plymouth
The pilgrims reached Plymouth rock on December 11th 1620, after a sea journey of 66 days. I don't think they had an outboard engine, only wind power. Wind power being what it is though , they could not reach the place owing to winds blowing them off course. The original destination was somewhere in the northern part of Virginia. I believe a man was in charge of asking directions, and so there you go. Nearly 46 pilgrims died due to extreme cold in winter. (I take it that the 46th passenger had a close call, but someone poured warm grog down his throat just in the nick of time.) However, in the spring of 1621, Squanto, a native Indian taught the pilgrims to survive by growing food. According to my grandfather, they used fish for fertilizer...but probably only the entrails unless they didn't particularly like the taste of fish. Daddy Dwight (my grandfather) had a love for fish and fishing and would throw entrails, heads and scales into the compost to make great fertilizer. He wouldn't think of wasting the edible parts on plant rows.
Day of Fasting and Prayer
In the summer of 1621, owing to severe drought, pilgrims called for a day of fasting and prayer to please God and ask for a bountiful harvest in the coming season. God answered their prayers and it rained at the end of the day. It saved the corn crops. We still do that to this day. But first we always ask God why he lets us get into these messes...Mammy (my Grandmother) always said He was just trying to get our attention and that maybe if we didn't leave Him out of our daily life, who knew what might be gifted to us! I tend to agree with her. She was infrequently wrong about anything.
First Thanksgiving Feast
It is said that Pilgrims learnt to grow corn, beans and pumpkins from the Indians, which helped all of them survive . In the autumn of 1621, they held a grand celebration where 90 people were invited including Indians. (Okay okay, Native Americans...can't seem to get the fact that they hadn't actually landed in India out of my head. ) The grand feast was organized to thank God for his favors. This communal dinner is popularly known as “The first thanksgiving feast”. There is however, no evidence to prove if the dinner actually took place. It is sort of a "word of mouth" story that came down parent to child...like a game of Gossip...some historians believe that the pilgrims, being quite religious, would definitely have a day of fasting and praying before a huge feast. Whether or not the dinner actually took place is any body's guess. The Colony Leader who supposedly wrote about it could have been dreaming, brought on by extreme hunger.
Turkey and First Thanksgiving Feast
There is no evidence to prove if the customary turkey was a part of the initial feast. According to the first hand account written by the leader of the colony, the food included, ducks, geese, venison, fish, berries etc. But the table without a turkey on it, is a poor table to be sure. Never having a taste for goose or duck, I'd as soon put nothing on the table than go without the traditional turkey. I've never been one to buck tradition. So no venison on the table either...perhaps at the table...some one please pass Bambi some cranberries.
Pumpkin and Thanksgiving Feast
Pumpkin pie, a modern staple adorning every dinner table, is unlikely to have been a part of the first thanksgiving feast. Pilgrims however, did have boiled pumpkin. (Picture me gagging here). Diminishing supplies of flour led to the absence of any kind of bread. Sort of begs the question, did the pilgrims break bread with Squanto and his tribe? So, no cakes or pies. Bummer.
The feast continued for three days and was eaten outside due to lack of space. It was not repeated till 1623, which again witnessed a severe drought. People will just not learn. Don't wait till you're in drastic need and then start begging God to save your belly! Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of thanksgiving in the year 1676. October of 1777 witnessed a time when all the 13 colonies joined in a communal celebration. It also marked the victory over the British. (Sorry Mary, but someone had to say it...Thanksgiving is really just another razzberry to the King...)
After a number of events and changes, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a Day of Thanksgiving in the year 1863. This was due to the continuous efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor. She wrote a number of articles for the cause. Of course it had to be a woman leading the way...because that's what we do. We whisper in men's ears at night when they are sleeping, and when they awaken they have this great idea that they came up with all on their own. (Big sigh here...) So, Mary this is why we have Thanksgiving. We needed a day where we could do the cooking and prop children up in front of the TV to watch the parades and the ginormous balloons floating across the skyscapes of New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Los Angeles...well, all over America really. But the actual bonus to the women is simple. We can get rid of men when the parades are over by turning on the TV to ESPN, where hours and hours of mind numbing game play keeps their attention on the tube and off the fact that we are about to spend three days shopping like maniacs. I hope that clears things up for you Mary (and anyone else who needs the scoop on Thanksgiving.)
Now, I'm sure everyone remembers the sweet poem that we were told as children. It is actually entitled Monday's Child, but I always remember it as Friday's Child. Just contrary that way. Plus I was born on a Friday. Ahem...here goes:
Fridays child poem
Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
I have a particular child in mind today. His name is Noah Biorkman and his address is
1141 Fountain View Circle
South Lyon, MI 48178
This young man is in last stage cancer and is celebrating Christmas early. He wants Christmas cards. I have mine to Noah already addressed and ready to mail. I learned of Noah through my friend Queenmothermamaw's post yesterday. She highlighted Karrie , one of her followers. It was through Karrie that the story of Noah emerged. Go see.
EDIT ALERT:..this information about Noah is apparently outdated. One day I will learn to check my information no matter where it comes from. Snopes is my friend will be my mantra. But still, go visit both my blogging friends.