Thanksgiving - Understanding The Holiday
by Robert Benjamin
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Thanksgiving to most folks means family and friends and Turkey, or maybe beer and football. Many do not know or even care about the significance of the Holiday. Way back in the 1600's a group of people who were members of the English Separatist Church (Puritan's) in England fled their homeland to escape religious persecution. They boarded a ship and sailed to Holland in the Netherlands. In Holland the people enjoyed a brief time free from the religious persecution they faced back in England, but they soon became frustrated with the Dutch peoples bad morals and what they considered sinful lifestyles.
Seeking yet a better way of life, the Separatists made a deal with a stock company in London to finance a trip to America on a ship named the Mayflower. There were others from England that were not separatists, in fact the majority that made the trip on the Mayflower were not.
The group arrived in America on Dec 11, 1620 and they set ground at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first winter season the pilgrims encountered in America was horrible. With extreme cold and blizzard conditions, they lost 46 of the original 102 who came over on the Mayflower. But the spring and summer of the next year was wonderful with most of the days pleasant and nice and most of the pilgrims staying healthy. The local indians showed them where and how to hunt and trap for the available game, and shared their secrets on growing and storing of the native crops. The harvest of 1621 was very bountiful and the pilgrims along with the local Indians who had helped them survive their first year, decided to have a huge feast to celebrate and give thanks.
The feast or as it's commonly called 'The First Thanksgiving' was probably held outside on handmade tables and benches, most of the people sat on blankets on the ground while eating, because records show that the colonists didn't have a building large enough to accommodate all the people.
From an original letter of a member of the colony, Edward Winslow, here is the actual account of the First Thanksgiving celebration:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
From the hand written letter we can see that 1 Indian Chief or King and 90 others (91 total indians) that were invited as guests attended the event along with the pilgrims, and that the feast or celebration lasted 3 days. The celebration or feast was not repeated again until the year 1623, when during a severe drought the pilgrims all gathered and prayed for rain. The next day, a long steady rain occurred, and Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, and again the pilgrims or 'colonists' invited their Indian friends to celebrate.
The next Thanksgiving celebration did not occur until the year 1676, when the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting on the best way to celebrate and give thanks for the good fortune their community had experienced. By voting, they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29th as a day of Thanksgiving.
Other dates that were important to the Thanksgiving Holiday were October of the year 1777, when there was a Thanksgiving holiday that was celebrated by all 13 colonies that had been established. In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving, and after a campaign of letter writing to presidents and governors, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. The date was altered a couple more times, but finaly in 1941 it was sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, on the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains yet today.
By Robert W. Benjamin
Copyright © 2005
About the Author: Robert W. Benjamin has been in the software business on the internet for over 5 years, and has been producing low-cost software for the past 25+ years. He first released products on the AMIGA and C64 computer systems in the late 1970's-80's. RB59.COM Software http://www.rb59.com/software