Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Thanksgiving History

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and I am getting excited. Yesterday Gina and I went shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and spend an amazing amount of money. We tried to do our part to jump start the economy. Gavin will be here Tuesday night, and Cynda, Dave, and the girls will be here Wednesday night. I can hardly wait for us to all be together. It is always blissful bedlam. Thanksgiving is such an amazing holiday. To me, even more than Christmas, Thanksgiving is the holiday that focuses on family. I know that family is something I am very thankful for.

I learned in school that the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims in 1621. I have later found out that it wasn’t quite true.

The Pilgrims did set apart a day to celebrate at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest, in 1621. At the time, this was not regarded as a Thanksgiving observance, but a harvest festival. Harvest Festivals were existing parts of English and Indian tradition alike. The Pilgrims did not hold a true Thanksgiving until 1623. The 1623 celebration followed a severe drought. After the entire group spent days praying for rain, they held a solemn Thanksgiving ceremony and followed that with a feast when the drought was over. Irregular Thanksgivings continued after favorable events and days of fasting after unfavorable ones.

The Pilgrims were not the first Europeans to have a Thanksgiving celebration in America. The first recorded Thanksgiving ceremony took place on September 8, 1565, when 600 Spanish settlers, under the leadership of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, and immediately held a Thanksgiving ceremony for their safe delivery to the New World; there followed a feast and celebration. As far as we know this was the first Thanksgiving celebration held in America.

Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving. The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is how a Canadian explained it to me. "We did actually have the FIRST Thanksgiving, a full 43 years before the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, but, in true Canadian fashion, there was something wrong with it. That first North American Thanksgiving would have been "celebrated" in sub-zero temperatures on a barren, windswept moonscape by a muttering, mutinous crowd wondering whether "the chief" had all his marbles".

Sir Martin Frobisher set out to find the Spice Islands through the Northwest Passage. He landed instead on Baffin Island. The complete absence of trees and a pitiless terrain of unrelieved rock and permafrost barely dampened his determination to establish the first English settlement in North America. Ever the optimist, he spent two years mining "gold ore". When it was shipped back to England, it was found to be iron pyrite. Fool's Gold.

Throughout the history of the U.S. and Canada, Thanksgiving has been observed. In the U.S. there has been an annual Thanksgiving observed since 1863. In Canada it has been observed since 1879 although on different dates.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day will be awesome!

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