This year both our kids are into reading, so we picked up some library books about this holiday, and learned/remembered some cool facts about how Thanksgiving came to be:
1) The modern holiday is an amalgamation of traditions dating back almost 400 years, from early colonial America. The main feast we celebrate took place in 1621.
2) The English Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower had a hard first winter on this continent, suffering a 50 percent casualty rate from starvation and exposure. During the next harvest, they ended up with so much food, they knew they would do more than survive. They could even get fat.
3) This was unusual back then! We take our food for granted in America nowadays because it is so easy to come by, compared to how hard people had to work for it in 1621. It was about 85% of what you did.
4) The Pilgrims called their place “Plimoth Plantation.” The local Native American tribesfolk were the Wampanoag people. One of them spoke English, the famous Squanto (or Tisquantum), but he himself was not Wampanoag.
Squanto had had a hard life; he was taken into slavery, sold to the Spanish, escaped, came back to America, and found that his tribe, the Patuxet, had died of disease. He was the last one. He joined the Wampanoag people, and was with them when they met the Pilgrims.
5) As the Pilgrims were celebrating their massive harvest, the chief/king of the Wampanoag, called Massasoit, decided to join them, and brought 90 of his men with them. The English and the Natives celebrated by eating food and playing games for days. (Probably to avoid leftovers.) It was a joyous event for all present.
6) Thanksgiving Day was officially established in 1789 by George Washington. Later, Thomas Jefferson said “nah,” and made it less of a big deal. Americans celebrated it on and off until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln said “Boom, we’re doing this thing.”
7) Maybe John Wilkes Booth really just agreed with Thomas Jefferson. (Boom, also.)
So there you have it. Have a sit, have a think, and realize what a miraculous age we live in. There are still hungry people, yes. We haven’t solved all our problems yet.
But food is so readily available to us, in such a wide variety, all year long without interruption, border to border, coast to coast.
It’s a big deal to wrestle sustenance out of the ground. Let’s never take it for granted. Similarly, let’s be thankful for those who make it happen, and for those who celebrate with us.