Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
The truth about the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts has largely been lost to time and efforts to be politically correct, but several facts can be gleaned from early Pilgrim writings.
While the exact date of the feast is unknown, it was certainly celebrated in the fall of 1621. Although not designated "Thanksgiving," John Winslow the Pilgrimís governor make it clear that the day celebrated was a traditional English harvest festival with religious overtones.
The Pilgrims had arrived in the New World eleven months earlier, unprepared, uninformed, and fearful of the coming winter and the unknown native peoples. Their worst fears were realized as they were struck by sickness that first winter. By spring 1621, 52 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers had died. Four men lost wives, six teenagers were orphaned, and several families were totally wiped outóonly four families were untouched by disease. Those left were indeed thankful to have been spared.
The native tribes closest to Plymouth had also been decimated by illness and had survival in common with the Pilgrims. The two people groups learned to respect each other and tried to live harmoniously. The Pilgrims did indeed invite Indians to their feast; over 100 of the latter came willingly, bringing freshly killed deer and prodigious appetites.
Our first modern Thanksgiving was proclaimed in October 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. Mindful of the fact that we were engaged in a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, Lincolnís proclamation stated, "The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies." He reminded the nation to remember the "ever-watchful providence of Almighty God."
This year I, too, have much for which to be thankful. In September I underwent a spinal fusion fraught with several complications. The Lord preserved my life and has been with me through a difficult recovery period. I have months to go but believe the end will be worth the struggle.
I am thankful for my many friends in Green Valley including my Grace Church family, members of the genealogical society and caring neighbors who have helped sustain me these past weeks. They have shopped for me, cleaned my house, provided meals, done laundry and yard work and kept me company. I am thankful for all the prayers, cards and messages of encouragement Iíve received. Finally I am thankful for my sister who has come from North Carolina to oversee my progress and persuade me to persevere when I get discouraged.
This Thanksgiving let us as a people look beyond the football games and turkey, political differences and economic woes, and thank God for our many blessings. Itís so easy to get caught in the mundane and overlook the fact that we still live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave where we can worship God as we choose.
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