In 1620, 102 people left on the Mayflower and took the journey across the Atlantic. 66 days later, they anchored in Cape Cod Bay. They lived on the ship during that cold winter and more than half died. During the spring and summer, they learned from the Wampanoag Indians and harvested their food and built living quarters. In November of 1621, they celebrated their harvest by inviting the Indians for a three day feast.

The Indians brought five deer to eat and the Pilgrims brought fowl (Turkey?).  Corn was not eaten during that time as we eat it today. It was mashed into cornmeal, boiled and pounded into a mush or porridge and sweetened with molasses. Potatoes didn't make their way to the American table until mid-1700's. Pilgrims had no oven and their sugar supply critical, so the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts. Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast.

Historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims’ celebration. In 1565, for instance, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine, Florida, after holding a mass to thank God for his crew’s safe arrival. On December 4, 1619, when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginia’s James River, they read a proclamation designating the date as “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation. In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day. 

In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale an author and known for the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It took her 36 years but in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November. In 1941 FDR signed a bill making Thanksgiving a holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.  In 1989, President George H. Bush pardoned the first turkey and ever since, the president has done so.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Enjoy the gift of life, be ye kind one to another and be thankful.  

 

Bro. Curtis

  December 2017  
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