The So Called First Recorded Thanksgiving Dinner
Governor William Bradford wrote in his journal of Plymouth Colony about the so called first American Thanksgiving Dinner.
In the fall of 1621, 90 Wampanoag (Waam-puh-no-ag) Indians and 52 English colonists gathered for a three-day harvest feast.
Everything historians know today is based on two passages written by colonists.
In a letter to a friend, dated December 1621, Edward Winslow wrote: "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time, among other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some 90 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."
Twenty years later, William Bradford wrote a book that provides a few more hints as to what might have been on that first Thanksgiving table. But his book was stolen by British looters during the Revolutionary War and therefore didn't have much influence on how Thanksgiving was celebrated until it turned up many years later.
No one is certain whether the Wampanoag (Waam-puh-no-ag) and the colonists regularly sat together and shared their food, or if the three-day "thanksgiving" feast Mr. Winslow recorded for posterity was a one-time event.
In 1858, Sarah Josepha Hale petitioned the president of the United States (James Buchanan) to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote: "Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand Thanksgiving holiday of our nation, when the noise and tumult of worldliness may be exchanged for the length of the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart."
Five years later, 5 months after Northern troops defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg Penn, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.". He wanted the citizens of the United States to “never forget those who gave their lives that that nation might live.”
Some historians believe that many younger Americans don’t really have the capacity to visualize what it was like 50 to a 100 years ago. This makes it difficult for them to really understand the origins and the legacy of the Thanksgiving holiday. This reminds me of that song we sang often at Pleasant Green… “Don’t forget to remember children…don’t forget…where all your blessing come from.” In this regard the blessings of liberty in the defeat of evil by good.
“Thanksgiving is not just the eating, but the gathering together of family members and friends, the preparing of the food, and truly thanking God for His blessings that matters,Earl Mills, Sr an educator says, "The role of food is important, but it's gotten to the point where we become gluttons.... We could spend a lot more time really thinking about what's going on in our world and giving more thanks."
In order to celebrate True Thanksgiving our thinking and attitude must focus on what true Thanksgiving is really about. Efficiency consultant Steven Covey has a motto he employs when he trains organizations. His motto states, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Thanksgiving is not mainly about pigging out on delicious food or enjoying the company of loved ones and friends. The main Thanksgiving Day emphasis is about giving genuine thanks for what God has done for us.
Rev. Herbert T. Owens, Jr.