Looking forward to Thanksgiving and remembering Christmas will soon be on the way.

We have written about the winter holidays which
often focus on bringing families and friends together
to share food and caring in December and January. Thanksgiving is
easy to overlook in today’s world. Already we see Halloween
decorations, a sparse number of Thanksgiving decorations and yes,
the Christmas decorations are in at the stores. Our diversity article
therefore will focus on Thanksgiving before it fades into obscurity. It
is a complex holiday with images of warmth, love and sharing. The
traditional image of a Norman Rockwell painting, is a loving family
gathered around the presentation of the Thanksgiving feast.
There is a debate as to how much of the history of Thanksgiving is
fanciful and romanticized. Below from the History Channel is a brief
history which brings up some of the more complex issues including
the settlers’ relationships with the native people of The Americas. It
is interesting to read and wonder how much we have made
palatable the history of Thanksgiving not just the Thanksgiving
Feast.
From the History Channel online:

“Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and
Thanksgiving 2018 occurs on Thursday, November 22. In 1621, the
Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn
harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first
Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two
centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual
colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil
War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national
Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left
Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of
religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely
practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of
prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous
and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped
anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended
destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the
Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they
are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village
at Plymouth.
Did you know? Lobster, seal and swans were on the Pilgrims’ menu.
Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained
on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and
outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s
original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England
spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they
received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted
them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native
American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been
kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before
escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory
expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition
and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple
trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He
also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the
Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more
than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole
examples of harmony between European colonists and
Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest
proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a
celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling
colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag
chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first
Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not
have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three
days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact
menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his
journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a
“fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the
Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians
have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared
using traditional Native American spices and cooking
methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the
Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621,
the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which
have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.
Thanksgiving Becomes an
Official Holiday–
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in
1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened
the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call
for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an
annual or occasional basis became common practice in other
New England settlements as well. During the American
Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or
more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George
Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by
the national government of the United States; in it, he
called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the
happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and
the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His
successors John Adams and James Madison also designated
days of thanks during their presidencies.
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially
adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a
different day, however, and the American South remained largely
unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor
and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless
other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—
launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national
holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent
scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other
politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at
the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all
Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those
who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the
lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He
scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D.
Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail
sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively
as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the
president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth
Thursday in November.
In many American households, the Thanksgiving celebration has lost
much of its original religious significance; instead, it now centers on
cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey, a
Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous
with the holiday, may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims
hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today, however, nearly 90 percent
of Americans eat the bird—whether roasted, baked or deep-fried—on
Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation. Other
traditional foods include stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce
and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity,
and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the
less fortunate.
Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities
and towns across the United States. Presented by Macy’s department
store since 1924, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the
largest and most famous, attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators
along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience.
It typically features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats
conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon
characters.
Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the
president of the United States has “pardoned” one or two
Thanksgiving turkeys each year, sparing the birds from slaughter and
sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors
also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual. ” And so, perhaps, we are dealing with a bit of our national guilt.
Fondly for The Diversity Committee who wishes you all a joyous and meaningful holiday season!

 

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