Nov 25 & Dec 2, 2003 Volume 3 Issue 24
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the entire year.
A prime reason is my daughter was born on that day ... that year as this the day was and is November 27. Happy Birthday Julie!
Thanksgiving Day is not a universal holiday. Canada celebrates in October. And maybe others of you do, too - elsewhere around the world.
Even if it's not 'official' where you live ... please stay with me. At least for the next few minutes. As you don't have to live in the United States to have the power Thanksgiving brings.
This year Thanksgiving has a larger meaning for me. As in August I was at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. And visited several other Plimoth areas, too. So, "yes" , this year is extra special.
Thanksgiving is "history" ... so a little about that first.
Thanksgiving Day in America is a time to offer thanks, of family gatherings and holiday meals. A time of turkeys, stuffing (both the turkey and we who enjoy it, too!) and pumpkin pie. A time for Indian corn, holiday parades and giant balloons.
It all began when a tiny wooden ship named the Mayflower sailed across the large and unknown Atlantic Ocean. Many of the 65 or 66 days (some dispute over exact time it took in the year 1620) in stormy seas. It arrived in Plymouth Harbor, what we now call Massachusetts, close to Boston, from England. And it changed history.
Yet, the beginning is earlier.
These first Pilgrims were fleeing religious prosecution. In 1609 a group left England for religious freedom in Holland, where they lived and prospered. After a few years their children were speaking Dutch and had become attached to the Dutch way of life. This worried the Pilgrims. They considered the Dutch frivolous and their ideas a threat to their children's education and morality.
So, they decided to leave Holland and travel to the "New World". Their trip was financed by a group of English investors, the Merchant Adventurers. It was agreed that the Pilgrims would be given passage and supplies in exchange for their working for their backers for 7 years.
On Sept. 6, 1620 the Pilgrims set sail for the New World with 44 Pilgrims, and 66 others. Who were called the "Strangers." The long trip was cold and damp. Since there was the danger of fire on the wooden ship, the food had to be eaten cold. Many passengers became sick and one person died by the time land was sighted on November 10th.
The long trip led to many disagreements. After land was sighted a meeting was held and an agreement was worked out, called the Mayflower Compact, which guaranteed equality and unified the two groups; the Pilgrims became one group ... the "Strangers" the other.
They first sighted land off Cape Cod, yet did not settle until they arrived at Plymouth, named by Captain John Smith in 1614. Plymouth offered an excellent harbor. A large brook offered a resource for fish. The Pilgrims biggest concern was attack by the local Native American Indians. But theatres were a peaceful group and did not prove to be a threat.
The first winter was devastating. The cold, snow and sleet was exceptionally heavy. March brought warmer weather and the health improved. But many had died during the long winter. Of the 110 who left England, less that 50 survived that first winter.
On March 16, 1621 , what was to become an important event took place. An Indian brave walked into the Plymouth settlement. His name was Samoset, of the Abnaki tribe. He had learned English from the fishing boat crews that had sailed off the coast.
Samoset stayed only one night on this first visit. Soon his was back with another Indian named Squanto. Squanto told the Pilgrims of his voyages across the ocean and his visits to England and Spain. It was in England where he learned English.
Squanto's importance to the Pilgrims was enormous ... it can be said they would not have survived without his help. It was Squanto who taught the Pilgrims how to tap the maple trees for sap. He taught them which plants were poisonous and which had medicinal powers. He taught them how to plant the Indian corn by heaping the earth into low mounds with several seeds and fish in each mound. The decaying fish fertilized the corn.
The harvest in the Fall was very successful. The Pilgrims found themselves with enough food to put away for the winter. There was corn, fruits and vegetables, fish to be packed in salt, and meat to be cured over smoky fires.
The Pilgrims had much to celebrate; they had built homes in the wilderness, they had raised enough crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter, they were at peace with their Indian neighbors. They had beaten the odds and it was time to celebrate.
The Pilgrim Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans. They invited Squanto and the other Indians to join them in their celebration. Their chief, Massasoit, and 90 braves came to the celebration which lasted for 3 days.
They played games, ran races, marched and played drums. The Indians demonstrated their skills with the bow and arrow and the Pilgrims demonstrated their musket skills.
The following year the harvest was not as bountiful ... they were not use to the growing methods the Indians used. Plus, during the year they shared their stored food with newcomers. So, they ran short of food during year two.
The 3rd year brought a spring and summer that was hot and dry - the crops died in the fields. Governor Bradford ordered a day of fasting and prayer ... soon there was rain.
To celebrate - November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the real true beginning of Thanksgiving Day.
The custom of an annually celebrated Thanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued through the years. During the American Revolution (late 1770's) a day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress.
In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of Thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, now designated as the fourth Thursday of each November.
The Thanksgiving Turkey
I cannot recall a single Thanksgiving without turkey. If there is a tradition in modern times for this Day, it is the turkey.
How did this happen? This is what we know. The wild turkey is native to northern Mexico and the eastern USA. I have a friend whose dad was a big turkey hunter. In fact, he was known as "Turkey" Johnson. As a game bird, the turkey is attractive.
Because of their size (large) and shape (different), they get noticed. They have brown and buff-colored feathers. The male turkey is called aTom and, as with most birds, is bigger and has brighter and more colorful plumage.
The female is called a Hen and is generally smaller and drab in color. The Tom has a long wattle (a fleshy, wrinkled, brightly colored fold of skin hanging from the neck or throat) at the base of its bill. With additional wattles on his neck, as well as a prominent tuft of bristles resembling a beard projecting downward from his chest.
The turkey was originally domesticated in Mexico, and was brought to Europe in the 16th century. Turkeys have been raised for their excellent quality of meat and eggs. Today most of us who enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving are eating a farm raised bird.
There is no real evidence turkey was served at the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving. In a book by the Pilgrim's Governor Bradford he mentions wild turkeys. And in a letter another writer describes how the governor sent "four men out fowling returning with turkeys, ducks and geese."
Well, whatever the story - today Thanksgiving Day is incomplete without turkey.
And, from all of us at ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, we wish you a most joyous and happy Thanksgiving Day 2003.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.