Arguably, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by some rag-tag pilgrims, Plymouth colonists, who gathered together to give thanks for bountiful harvests and to count their blessings for having 47 out of 103 pilgrims who survived their first winter in the New World.
That summer of 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, Massachussetts, decreed that everyone should celebrate their improving situation. Pilgrims gave thanks and extended their fellowship to the Native Americans who reached out to help them survive the winter. It was a time for great feasting, wonderful fellowship, and cultural exchange.
The menu was very special and everyone helped to prepare the feast. The American Indians brought wild turkey and venison (deer meat). The men provided wild geese, ducks, and fish. The women prepared the food and made cornmeal bread and succotash (a cooked dish of kernel of corn mixed with shell of beans, especially lima beans, and often with green and sweet red peppers).
Children gathered nuts and wood for the open fires, where the meat was roasted on spits. Everyone sat around large tables outside and feasted, sang hymns of praise and had a wonderful time.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of observance.
The credit really should go to a lady, Mrs. Sarah J. Hale of Philadelphia, who authored "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and edited "Godey's Lady Room," which had a circulation of 180,000. She wrote letters to all governors, as well as to the president, and also many editorials for her publication, all devoted to bringing about a national day of Thanksgiving.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time for family reunions, giving thanks, and having a great time. There's that televised colorful, and magnificent television parade during the day in New York and much-anticipated football games in the evening, across the country, while families are feasting, enjoying lots of fun, friendship and food.
During the season of thanksgiving, many of us stop and take time to reach out to those less fortunate than ourselves. And many enjoy family, feasts, fellowship, and fun over a long weekend celebration.
This Thanksgiving, don't forget to give thanks and count your blessings.
May your Thanksgiving be joyful.
-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Wednesday, November 26, 2014. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.