Thanksgiving Day

 Happy Thanksgiving Day! The Missionary News Service have been researching Thanksgiving Day today - and have issued the following fascinating report. Today is an occasion to gather together in praise and thankfulness for what the year has brought. The tradition consists in gatherings of families and friends for a large meal, reflecting what is widely believed to have been served on "The First Thanksgiving". Today we connect Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims just like Christmas and Santa Claus, but in reality the Pilgrims never held an autumnal Thanksgiving feast. The Pilgrims did have a feast in 1621, after their first harvest, and it is this feast which people often refer to as "The First Thanksgiving". This feast was however never repeated, so it cannot be called the beginning of a tradition, nor was it referred to by the colonists or "Pilgrims" as a Thanksgiving Feast. In fact, for these devoutly religious people, a day of thanksgiving was a day of prayer and fasting and was held any time that they felt an extra day of thanks was called for. The 1621 feast has however become a model that we think of for our own American Thanksgiving celebration and we have discovered some truth about it. We can assume that the harvest feast was eaten outside, based on the simple fact that the Colonists didn't have a building large enough to accommodate all the people who came. Native People were definitely among the invited guests, and it's possible, even probable, that turkey and pumpkin in some form, found their way to the table. This is a first-hand account of the day, by a supposed leader of the colony, Edward Winslow: "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty." Moving further into a search for a little truth about Thanksgiving, I discovered that native Americans celebrated many thanksgiving festivals before Europeans ever arrived in America. The Wampanoag (Indian allies of the Pilgrims) in fact held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. The first recorded Christian thanksgiving in America was held in Texas on May 23, 1541 when Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, and his men held a service of thanksgiving after finding food, water, and pasture for their animals in the Panhandle. Another thanksgiving service occurred on June 30, 1564 when French Huguenot colonists celebrated in solemn praise and thanksgiving in a settlement near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. On August 9, 1607 English settlers led by Captain George Popham joined Abnaki Indians along Maine's Kennebec River for a harvest feast and prayer meeting. The colonists, living under the Plymouth Company charter, established Fort St George around the same time as the founding of Virginia's Jamestown colony. This site was however abandoned a year later. Two years before the Pilgrims on December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation in what is now Charles City, Virginia. The group's charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God. Captain John Woodleaf held the service of thanksgiving. The following is the part of the Charter of Berkley Plantation which describes the thanksgiving service: "We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God." Aside from 1619, the colonists are known to have held service in 1620 and 1621. The colony was wiped out in 1622. It was a private event, limited to the Berkeley settlement. Spanish, French and British colonists therefore held several Thanksgiving services in America before the Pilgrim's celebration in 1621. Most of these early thanksgivings did not involve feasting. They were religious in nature. Source: MISNA

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