By Faye Gaston
Eleven members of the Chunnenuggee Garden Club met on Thursday, November 10, 2022, at the Josephine Arts Center in downtown Union Springs. Faye Gaston presented the program focusing on the official "first Thanksgiving in America." The following program is shared with the readers of the Union Springs Herald as we celebrate Thanksgiving 2022.
"Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States. This is an account of the official "first Thanksgiving in America." In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, with 102 passengers. Among these were those who wanted a place to practice their Christian faith freely, those who wanted prosperity, and those who wanted to own land in the "New World."
Crossing that big ocean took 66 days. The anchor was dropped at the tip of Cape Cod. A month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where they began establishing a village at Plymouth (named for Plymouth, England). Most pilgrims stayed on the Mayflower, suffering exposure, scurvy, and contagious diseases. In March of 1621, only half of them lived to move to the land. These 51 Pilgrims received a surprise visit from an Indian from the Abenaki tribe who spoke in English.
Several days later, he returned with an Indian from the Patuxet tribe, Squanto. He had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. He escaped to London and returned home to his tribe. The Pilgrims were weakened by malnutrition and illness. Squanto taught them how to cultivate corn, extract sap from Maple trees, catch fish in rivers, and avoid poisonous plants. He helped to form an alliance between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indian tribe that lasted 50 years.
Therefore, in November 1621, the Pilgrims had a successful corn harvest, and Governor William Bradford organized a feast and invited the Indian tribe and its chief Massasoit. We remember this as the "first Thanksgiving." The feast lasted three days. The Pilgrims killed fowl, and the 90 Indians killed five deer.
The menu included swans, lobster, and seals. There was no dessert because the Pilgrims' sugar supply had shrunk. The Pilgrims held a second Thanksgiving feast two years later, in 1623. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of Thanksgiving to God a year.
In 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States. He asked Americans to express gratitude to God for the happy conclusion to the War of Independence and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Succeeding Presidents John Adams and James Madison designated days of Thanksgiving.
Sarah Josepha Hale earned the nickname of the "Mother of Thanksgiving." She was a magazine editor and prolific writer. She wrote the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent letters to governors, senators, presidents, and other politicians.
In 1863, the final Thursday in November was designated "Thanksgiving Day" all across America after her 36 years of effort. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved it up a week to spur retail sales during the Great Depression, but this proved unpopular and was changed back to the original day. Thanksgiving Day has lost much of its religious significance in many households and centers on a big meal with family and friends. Turkey is the center of the meal.
Nearly 90 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, whether roasted, baked, or deep-fried. Other traditional foods are stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. One tradition is parades in cities and towns. The largest and most famous is New York City's parade presented by Macy's department store since 1924.
Two to three million people line the 2.5-mile route to watch the parade, and there is an enormous television audience. Another tradition is the "pardoning" of one or two turkeys by the U.S. President, who sends them to a farm to live. Many governors also "pardon" a turkey in this annual ritual.
Faye Gaston gave the reminder to pray in all circumstances and concluded by reading Psalm 100, which includes the action to "enter into God's gates with Thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. . . to be thankful unto Him and bless His name."