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Traditional Thanksgiving

Published November 21. 2009 09:00AM

A friend, Dave Pierce says his favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. He calls it a "man's holiday."

"We get to eat great food and watch football. What could be better?" he says.

Well, if you're a woman, Thanksgiving usually involves shopping, cooking and cleaning up. It's a lot of work if you're hosting Thanksgiving.

Yet most people love Thanksgiving because it is traditionally a family day. We get together and spend it in each other's company and share a delicious meal.

But no matter how much cooking we do, how much food we eat, how many parades and football games we watch, it all boils down to a rag tag group of people called Pilgrims.

We all know the story about how a group of people called the Separatists were unhappy with the Church of England. Persecuted, they moved to Holland in 1607. In 1620, a ship called the Mayflower, 100 feet long, set sail for the New World. There were 102 passengers. The voyage took 66 days. In November 1620, they missed their mark of Virginia and landed in what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. But they had only permission, a patent, to start a colony in Virginia. So the new settlers drew up the Mayflower Compact, (a civil body politic, which meant a separation of church and state,) and signed it on Nov. 21, 1620 to stay together. They then requested a new patent from the King of England to stay where they were. They received permission to stay in 1621 but the settlement had to survive seven years and then could apply for a permanent patent. They did indeed survive and received a permanent patent in 1629.

The Wampanoag were the native people living in the area. Massasoit was the chief and they coexisted with the new colonists peacefully.

Out of the original 102 passengers, 53 survived their first year in the new colony.

In England it was an annual event to celebrate the harvest. The Pilgrims wanted to continue the tradition. Massasoit and about 90 of his men arrived and celebrated with the Pilgrims for about three days. The Pilgrims had killed some fowl and the Native Americans didn't come empty-handed by bringing deer. They did not call this "Thanksgiving." To the Pilgrims, the Day of Thanksgiving was a purely religious day. They did not observe a Day of Thanksgiving until 1623 when they had a providential rainfall.

Later, the religious Day of Thanksgiving and the harvest festival evolved into a single event, a yearly Thanksgiving, proclaimed by individual governors for a Thursday in November. The custom of an annual Thanksgiving celebrating abundance and family spread across America over the years.

Abraham Lincoln began the tradition of an annual national Thanksgiving in 1863.

As I grow older, tradition becomes more meaningful to me. I love knowing the history of why we do things.

Children in schools today re-enact the first Thanksgiving with plays of Pilgrims welcoming Native Americans to share in a meal that includes turkey, (a fowl served at that first Thanksgiving,) along with corn, (a food source the Native Americans introduced to the Pilgrims and taught them how to plant.)

Food banks everywhere, nationally and internationally, are all in need of filling their shelves. If you have enough to fill your table this Thanksgiving, a way to be a Pilgrim or a Wampanoag is to show your thanks. Give whatever you can to these food banks so others might have a reason to be thankful.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving as a religious day, and I do hope you bow your head and thank God for what you have, or whether you celebrate it as a day to gather with family and friends to share a meal and watch football, I hope you'll join me in remembering the Pilgrims and their friends, the Wampanoags.

They gave thanks and they were giving.

What a nice thing to celebrate.

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