Thursday, November 22, 2007
Happy Thanksgiving. Did you know that this traditional harvest thanksgiving feast day is at least 388 years old? That's a whole lot of turkey and stuffing folks!
The first Day of Thanksgiving on record on our shores ( by non Native Americans that is) was held in the Virginia Colony on December 4, 1619. Grateful colonists made merry and no doubt stuffed themselves with seventeenth century turkey at Berkley Hundred Plantation on the James River 2o miles upstream from the Jamestown settlement. However, the Thanksgiving celebration that we generally think of was held up Massachusetts way in 1621. This one was attended by some fifty English colonists and ninety Indians, including the famous Squanto, who legend has it, taught the colonists how to cultivate and harvest corn...which as the old TV butter commercial said he called maize.
Since there were no colleges, universities, or high schools in the Massachusetts colony, there were no organized football games as far as we know, and since television and the internet wouldn't be invented for another 300 years, the Pilgrims and Indians probably had to entertain each other with amusing stories told around the fire and massive quantities of ale. Unfortunately for Squanto and Bobby Bradford and company, aspirin and Pepto Bismol didn't exist yet either, although fruitcake certainly did. I have it on good authority that the original Thanksgiving day fruitcake is still being passed around uneaten somewhere. Like Peeps, fruitcake is indestructible.
Anyway, Thanksgiving/harvest feasts were often held throughout the American revolutionary days and the early decades of our newly created nation but there was no clearly established national holiday until 1863 when president Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as an official day of Thanksgiving. In 1940 President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill making Thanksgiving a Federal National holiday. Soon after, somebody had the idea of giving the President a turkey each Thanksgiving so that the president could grant guest worker status, I mean amnesty, to the turkey. This custom continues today.
So, what are you doing to celebrate this year? Watching the Macy's parade or football games, feasting at home or with friends and family? Whatever your holiday traditions are, please take a moment to be truly thankful for the blessings in your life and for those you hold dear. As Tiny Tim said (albeit on another soon to come holiday), "God Bless us every one."