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IN OUR VIEW/Thanksgiving: Give thanks this year for your many blessings

November 24, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.

Today is Thanksgiving, a time when families and friends join together to give thanks, share good times, eat well and in abundance and collapse on the sofa in front of the television set for a round of football games.

The past couple of Thanksgivings have seen something of a disruption of that annual ritual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But many families are ready for a traditional celebration this year.

Thanksgiving has evolved over the years from what we consider the first back in 1621, when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians sat down together at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts to share a harvest meal that turned into a three-day celebration of plenty..

Colonist Edward Winslow described the feat in a letter to a friend in England dated Dec. 12, 1621:

"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 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 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 upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at 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."

Winslow's letter about a traditional English harvest feast celebrated in the new colony was first published in 1841 in a book by Alexander Young and evolved into what we now know as Thanksgiving.

For that we can thank Sara Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book, a widely read magazine of the time, who took up the cause of Thanksgiving in 1854 and created a campaign that eventually resulted in President Abraham Lincoln creating a national holiday in 1863.

The ironic part is that the harvest celebration enjoyed by the Pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth, including three days of feasting, merrymaking and games and contest, was a far cry from traditional Pilgrim thanksgiving observances, which were spent in prayer and meditation.

But that's no matter. We have today combined the best of harvest merriment with an added component of giving thanks for our blessings to give us a holiday where we are free to enjoy ourselves while also remembering the source of our good fortune.

A fine tradition indeed. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

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