Thanksgiving, a day to spend with family and friends. A day for stuffing a turkey and your stomach. Perhaps watch some football if so inclined.
President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War thanks to Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale, enamored with the story of the Pilgrims, made it her mission for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. She published a trendsetting influential magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book. While petitioning the President she was publishing recipes for turkey, potatoes (still exotic to that time), and pumpkin pie. Her influence gave us today’s Thanksgiving menu.
When thinking of Thanksgiving our thoughts naturally migrate to the Pilgrims and The First Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims journey began in England. Their original destination was Holland where they would be free to practice their religion without persecution. Holland became a stopping point to the New World which enticed them with both freedom and prosperity. They boarded the Mayflower once again and undertook the treacherous journey across the vast ocean. They sailed for 66 days, hardtack and salted beef the only food. They endured overcrowded conditions, poor nutrition, and disease.
The Mayflower arrived safely in the heart of a New England winter. A handful of men went ashore to begin building the village, the rest spent the winter on the ship in the same poor conditions. Out of the original 102 passengers only 51 survived by the time Spring finally arrived.
The small group was startled when visited by an Abenaki Indian. He introduced Squanto, a Pawtuxet Indian. Squanto, who spoke English, remained in the village and taught the Pilgrims what to grow, when to rotate crops, what plants to avoid and how to fish in the rivers. Squanto was elemental in brokering an alliance between the neighboring Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrim village.
Thanks to Squanto there was a bountiful harvest in 1621. Governor Bradford organized a feast to thank God for all their good fortune. In attendance were 90 Native Americans, Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag tribe being one. The feast lasted for three days with much merriment and food. Historians believe the menu consisted of porridge made from corn, duck, swan, fish, and deer. The food was most likely cooked using Native American spices and cooking methods. (Sorry folks, no pies. Sugar was scarce, no flour, no oven).
What we know as the First Thanksgiving is proof that two completely different cultures can be tolerant and unite. Today we feast, why…to gorge ourselves, an excuse to see family and friends, a day off work? What does Thanksgiving mean in our culturally diverse country? It would seem to some that Thanksgiving is nothing more than an excuse to overeat and a day off work. If we were truly thankful we would be a country united, tolerant of our neighbors and our differences. Willing to work together no matter our political affiliation. Practicing tolerance instead of fear. Instead we are conceding to 5% of the population who would have God eradicated, and change our history. Ninety-five percent of Americans are Christian but remain silent. What would happen if they spoke up?
There are many things we should be thankful for; a stronger economy, secure borders, stronger military and a President who believes in America. Be thankful for your family, friends, freedoms, and most of all be thankful to God for all of the above, I know I will.