A uniquely American event takes place on the last Thursday of every November. We call it THANKSGIVING. The history, the traditions, the rituals have been passed down generation to generation for nearly 400 years…a mighty long time when you consider the relative youth of this country.
The year was 1621. English settlers in the area of Plymouth Massachussetts shared an autumnal feast with the local Wampanoag Indians. They were so thrilled and thankful to have survived in a hostile new land that they created a celebratory dinner with their new found friends. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, a year of some of the bloodiest and savage battles, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of THANKSGIVING to be observed every November. A most noble and humble thought during a time of great stress, sorrow and pain in the national conscience.
It’s no secret. Americans have much to be thankful for. Even the most challenged amongst us live a life far more secure and comfortable than most of the world. With all of her deficiencies, America is still amongst the places on earth where great numbers of people yearn to be. With all of the many problems we have here why would that be?
I think the answer is fairly simple. Opportunity. The chance to make a decent living. The ability to raise a family in an environment of relative stability. The opportunity to freely observe whatever cultural or religious rituals each of us holds dear. We take these things for granted. Most of the world does not. Most of the world is concerned with where the next good meal is coming from. Most of the world is anxious that the water they are drinking is pure, if indeed there is any water to drink at all. Most of the world is hopeful that their government will not harm them in a some insane violent manner.
There is so much to be thankful for. It is sometimes true that we as a people have a very inflated opinion of ourselves and our country, possibly because during the last 240 years or so we have accomplished so much. Our technology is truly astounding. But I paraphrase the Dalai Lama when I say that perhaps a great deal of the rage and divisive behavior that is occurring in the world, and America in particular, is the result of technology outdistancing spirituality. There seems to be a serious disconnect between our ability to look within ourselves, and our preoccupation with the pleasures of the material world around us. Thanksgiving has become the signal of the beginning of the yearly shopping sprees. It is true that this event is an important piece of the puzzle when you study the economic health of the nation. Unfortunately this time of thanks has become more about the battle for I ME MINE and not a simple reflection on all of the amazing things we have in this country.
Thanksgiving is a reminder that we all need to give back in meaningful ways. We need to make an effort to live up to the ideals of the world’s great religions and the 1960’s cultural revolution. We are indeed all brothers and sisters. We are indeed all one family of man and the sooner we accept this reality the sooner the society in general will benefit, grow and prosper.
Here now the actual story of Thanksgiving as told by History.com
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.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.
It is pretty amazing what these few ill prepared pioneers were able to do in concert with their Indian benefactors. Yes…Virginia…people can live and work together in a most harmonious and beneficial manner. I think they call it “civilization”. Happiness and peace can be achieved. It has happened sporadically throughout history which seems to show that it can happen again…and hopefully on a more sustained basis. America is certainly a civilized place in the year 2013 but there remains much work to do striving towards this lofty goal.
So as we set our sites on the Christmas Holiday season and the New Year celebration that follows let us give pause. Let us consider those less fortunate that need our help. Let us realize that the material aspects of life should be kept in one place and the spiritual in another. Let us emphasize the spiritual so as to create giant waves of positive energy washing over us all.
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
- The History Of Thanksgiving (thoughtprovokingperspectives.wordpress.com)
- What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale (unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com)
- Five Things You Didn’t Know About American Thanksgiving (theirishatheist.wordpress.com)