Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, community, and uplifting of the spirit, all of which are part of almost all religions.
For Pastor Greg Molter of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Danville and St. Peter’s Methodist Church in Riverside, Thanksgiving is also about the gifts.
“For me, giving thanks is a gift, both to us and to those with whom we share it,” said Molter. “Each of us will experience great joy in bringing everyone home and to the table of happiness that we have prepared for them to share. We benefit body and soul by sharing with those we love.
Molter also said: “We are rewarded in our minds with the uplifting smiles, the joyful laughter and the compliments of a meal so wonderfully prepared.”
But our own feelings are not as important as the feelings of those around us.
Molter said the second gift is for our guests.
“They receive the welcome from someone willing to do whatever they can to make this special day happen,” Molter said. “They will feel the uplifting spirit of kindness and goodwill. They will spend the day relaxing and enjoying each other’s company – some with people they may not have seen in months or even years. And, they will also know that this day is all about love and gratitude.
400 years of thanksDespite the desserts that we will probably enjoy on Thanksgiving, there were no sugary treats at the 1621 celebration. There was no football either, but, according to Edward Winslow, “among other recreations, we have exercised our arms “. The surviving souls of that first winter were joined at this celebration by 90 Native Americans to celebrate the bounty of the recent harvest.
Each schoolboy learns that in September 1620, a group of 102 people left Plymouth, England, aboard a small ship, the Mayflower. After a miserable 66 day voyage, the boat landed at the tip of Cape Cod although their intended destination was the mouth of the Hudson River.
Most of the pilgrims – some seeking religious freedom while others seeking opportunities – lived on the ship during that first winter. They suffered from scurvy, sickness, hunger and cold. By March 1621, when the survivors disembarked, only half of the passengers and crew had survived.
Have you ever wondered how the Native Americans who came to the colony could converse with the pilgrims? The first visitor to the settlement is not named, but a few days later he returned with Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. Squanto “had been kidnapped by an English naval captain and sold as a slave before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition”, according to Histoire.com.
Squanto and his comrades taught pilgrims how to plant corn, extract sap from maple trees, and catch fish in rivers. Perhaps more importantly, Squanto is said to have helped forge an alliance with a local tribe, the Wampanoag, and this first alliance lasted over 50 years.
It was after the first corn harvest that the colony’s first governor, William Bradford, threw a party. And, in a spirit of thanksgiving and appreciation, representatives of the Wampanoag tribe, including Massasoit, their leader, were invited to share their generosity.
No menu card was printed for this celebration, but Edward Winslow wrote:
“Our harvest having come in, our governor sent four men to hunt, so that we might, in a special way, rejoice together, after having reaped the fruits of our labors; … They killed four in one day as many birds as with a little help on the side. To help feed everyone or perhaps as a gift, “Massasoit’s men brought five deer to the celebration. and although it is not always as abundant as it was then with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from need, that we often wish you to participate in our abundance.
Recent questions and discussions about the accuracy of Thanksgiving events in 1621 seem to rest on whether or not this was the first Thanksgiving celebration. There is ample evidence that this was not the case.
Religious celebrations of fasting and thanksgiving have been recorded for over a thousand years.
Found a new nation
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress declared several days of Thanksgiving, and as the first President, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation by the National Government of the United States.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the colonies and then the states celebrated days of thanksgiving on several occasions before Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving in 1863 – in the midst of the Civil War. .
Ted Yeager, retired history professor from Elysburg, reminds us that in his proclamation, Lincoln called on Americans to “commend to his loving care all those who have become widows, orphans, bereaved or victims of the lamentable Civil War. “And” to heal the wounds of the nation.
Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a day of celebration. But, in 1939, President Roosevelt moved the week-long vacation forward to the penultimate Thursday to encourage vacation sales during the Great Depression.
It was not a popular decision and in 1941 the President signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November and it still is today.
While 90% of Americans, according to the Turkish National Federation, will eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, some people will not. As we give thanks, we do not ignore the difficulties in our world today – they are too many to list, but remember the state of our nation when Lincoln declared the first day of Thanksgiving. It is possible to give thanks in the midst of disagreements and turmoil.
If your table will be plentiful and you haven’t donated to one of the food banks in our valley or given your time or talent to cook a community dinner, it’s not too late.
For a day, it’s important to celebrate everything you need to be grateful for in 2021 – you can start with our 400th anniversary of Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving.