By Bill Moore

As we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving, we start to think of the Turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and cranberries. We look forward to seeing relatives and friends we have not seen in a while. Some people choose to donate their time to feed thanksgiving meals to those less fortunate. All in all it is a happy time and a time to thank God for all our blessings. Have you ever wondered what the real 1st Thanksgiving was like? Or wondered how close it was to our current festivities’? Curious as to how the holiday evolved? A little history can add to the understanding of the holiday. There were two eye witness accounts. One from Edward Winslow and the other from  5 time Colonial Governor William Bradford.

The Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Over half of the 102 people that sailed on the Mayflower had died as a result of a severe winter. All that remained were 22 men, 4 married women, and 27 children. However with the help of the Indians they had a bountiful harvest. Their settlement consisted of  7 homes, 3 storehouses and a common meeting place.

The remaining settlers decided to have a feast to celebrate the harvest, and to give thanks to God. Since the Indians were responsible for their survival they invited them to attend. 91 Indians from the Wampanoag tribe, including their leader Chief Massasoit, attended the 1st Thanksgiving. The 1st Thanksgiving lasted three days. Indians and Pilgrims shared some meals together during that time but also ate meals separated from each other. Meals were eaten indoors and outside.  Remember the pilgrims did not have a place big enough to house all of them and their Indian guests. In fact, the Indians had to erect temporary lodging for the 3 days since the small pilgrim homes would not accommodate them and the Indian camp was a 2 day walk from the settlement

The 1st Thanksgiving Day meals were different from modern times. Since they were on Massachusetts Bay, water fowl or ducks were in great abundance.  Some reports indicated wild turkeys were also on the menu. Cod, Bass, and other fish were on the menu for the three days. The Indians contributed to the meal by providing 5 deer for the festival. Samp was also on the menu. Samp is a porridge made by grinding corn until it becomes a corn based oatmeal.  Squash, cabbage, corn and onions rounded off the meals.

Between meals kids played games like Blind Man’s Bluff or the pin game which is attempts to get a ring to go over a long pin. Men practiced Target shooting. All participated in singing and dancing. Sounds like fun but how did we get to this celebration becoming a national holiday?

In 1789 George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving.  Many colonies did not feel a few Pilgrims deserved a holiday. When Thomas Jefferson became President he opposed the holiday and it was dropped. A 40 year writing campaign, by Boston Editor Sarah Josepha Hale, fought to have the Thanksgiving National Holiday reinstated. Her editorials and letters to prominent politicians paid off in 1863 when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.  It stayed that way until President Franklin D Roosevelt decided to move it to the 3rd Thursday in November. He wanted to create a longer Christmas Shopping season. Public uproar caused Roosevelt to return it to the 4th Thursday in November within 2 years of the change. In 1941 Congress passed legislation to make Thanksgiving a legal holiday to be celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November.

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving season, let us remember the 1st Thanksgiving and join the Pilgrims in thanking God for the many  blessings we have received and most of all those who we love and love us. Let us help the less fortunate and, like the Pilgrims, remember to thank and honor those people who helped get to this point.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!