Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving: A Day of Thanks


Thanksgiving Day is the oldest holiday in America, and for me anyway, it is certainly the most popular. Most Americans know the story of the English colonists known as Pilgrims, who in pursuit of religious freedom, fled their homeland in 1620 to settle in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. A year later, in gratefulness for a successful harvest, they held a huge feast with the local Indians, the Wampanoag. The famous feast became known as Thanksgiving Day. 

Some may be surprised to learn that this particular feast was not a religious celebration. The Pilgrims did not believe in public display of their religion. Although they were surely thankful, the feast was strictly a non-religious affair, and included game playing and even drinking of liquor. I was also surprised to learn that the 1621 feast is not considered the origin of Thanksgiving Day.

Another feast held on June 30, 1623, is thought to be the real origin of Thanksgiving Day. As the story goes, the Plymouth colony had just endured a terrible drought. Crops were dying in the ground and there appeared to be no relief in sight for the Pilgrims. After much fasting and praying, the rains finally came, followed by a rescue operation from England. Captain Miles Standish miraculously sailed into the harbor with fresh supplies. The shouts of joy that filled the harbor that day must have been heard for miles and miles. A day of thanksgiving and prayer was declared that was both a social and religious celebration.

The standard modern-day meal in America goes something like this: Roasted whole turkey with stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, green bean casserole, vegetable trays and/or salad (including jello and fruit), pumpkin bread, olives, pickles and other condiments, and last but not least, pumpkin pie. 

Well, it was hardly the menu of the Pilgrims. A standard 1623 menu would have been: roasted duck, corn porridge, venison or deer meat, seafood, onions, squash, and corn. I'll take the modern version any day, but it is a lot of eating for one sitting, which is why I love leftovers the best.

Personally, in spite of an elaborate menu, I love the simplicity of this holiday. We give thanks to God, plain and simple. Many will bow in prayer around the table with a table grace. Or, if nothing else, they will think about something they can be thankful for this year. One tradition is to go around the table and share one thing you are thankful for. If you have never done this, I urge you to try. It really sets the mood, and those beautiful candles you set on the table to glow warmly will make the moment all the more meaningful, too. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!  



Sources: http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmah/thanks.htm; 
http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/feast/slideshow.htm; 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilgrim_Fathers 

14 comments:

  1. A very nice lesson on Thanksgiving. I'm with you in preferring our traditional Thanksgiving meal. And the reason I like to invite people to my house is so that I can have all the leftovers. LOL Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, Sharon

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  2. Thank you, Paula. Make room in the freezer. Turkey day is almost here!

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  3. Hi Sharon .. the history is interesting ... while the choices of food then and now are logical .. enjoy the day .. while giving thanks for life and its gifts ... cheers Hilary

    PS! I too love the leftovers!!

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    1. Those leftovers mean no cooking for a week. Wonderful! Love your visits, Hilary. Thanks!

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  4. Interestingly, it didn't become a federal holiday until 1863.
    Have a great turkey day, Sharon, and we hope to see you the following week.
    We saw Mockingjay part 1 over the weekend--boring! But maybe we could see Interstellar or maybe there will be other movies showing in Spokane.

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    1. Hi Cathy. Isn't it something how the holiday evolved? Then it took a congressional act in 1941 to make the last Thursday in November the official date!
      Oh what a disappointment about Mockingjay. Of course, I still plan to watch it :)
      Looking forward to getting together in Spokane!

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  5. This is a great history of this day. We have ours in October probably because our crops came in earlier I think. I recently watched a Geneology with Sally Field and they traced her paternal's mother's side to the actual Mayflower and the head of this Thanksgiving day! I thought that was quite neat. Oh and I made your Thumbleberry pie( I used raspberries) that you had on the A to Z challenge-It was delicious:)

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    1. Oh, I love that you have tried this pie and love it :) I need to make it at Christmas. October does make sense for a harvest meal. We do two holidays back to back here, which really makes Christmas kind of crazy, but that's Americans for you. We never do things the easy way :)
      Neat about Sally Field....did not know. Isn't she a fabulous actress, too?

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  6. I'm with you on the newer menu as well. Nothing beats a green bean casserole. Happy Thanksgiving, Sharon!

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    1. Enjoy, enjoy your day with family and friends. Thanks, Dixie!

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  7. Appreciate your post on Thanksgiving, Sharon :-) It's always good to review the history of the day so we're reminded of the sacrifices of our forebears. I count the day as extra-special for lots of reasons, but one is that a cousin traced our family roots back to Miles Standish himself. So I can say my ancestor really did come over on the Mayflower!

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  8. Thanks, Kenda. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Neat your family can trace its roots so far back. What a treasure!

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  9. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Enjoy your weekend.

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    1. Thanks, Vanessa. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, too :)

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