Take time to remember friends, family

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving week is one of the oldest holidays that we celebrate that traces back to the early 1600s.

Many have said for years that Thanksgiving is one of the most overlooked holidays because Christmas shopping and the holiday season focus more on Christmas than Thanksgiving, it is hard to disagree.

Most department stores already have huge Christmas displays, and Christmas lights have already gone up all over the Miss-Lou. Now I love Christmas, with kids it is my favorite holiday, but it just appears many of us tend to get into the holiday season and forget all about giving thanks for what we have that makes it all possible. So today I would like to tell some of the Thanksgiving story I learned back in school that we often forget.

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Q. Who started Thanksgiving, what did they eat, why do we celebrate it?

A. It has become commonly accepted and taught in schools that the first Thanksgiving was in the fall of 1621. There the pilgrims that came over to the New World on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution had a three-day celebration with the Wampanoag Indians who helped them survive upon arrival. The celebration was said to include about 90 Indians and 46 of the remaining 102 pilgrims that first set sail on the Mayflower. More than half the original pilgrims died during the harsh winter between their arrival on Dec. 11, 1620, and the spring of 1621.

The feast in which they enjoyed was much different than what we have today. At that time there were no dairy products because cattle were not yet domesticated in the United States, no supply of flour to make pies or pastries, no potatoes and probably no turkeys. Therefore they had to enjoy what was in abundance at that location at that time. This was likely to include venison, wild fowl (ducks and geese), fish, berries, lobster, and dried fruit.

Thanksgiving was not repeated every year thereafter, in fact it was many years before it is even mentioned again in history books. The next mention of a day of giving thanks was on June 29, 1676, when in Charlestown, Mass., the town had a celebration to shows thanks. Then a century later in 1777, all 13 colonies joined in a thanksgiving celebration to acknowledge the victory over the British at Saratoga. However just like in 1621 and 1676 this was a one-time celebration. Then in 1789 President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving that had mixed opinions throughout the colonies therefore President Thomas Jefferson opposed and ended this event.

Finally in 1863, nearly two and a half centuries later, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in the month of November to be known as a national day of Thanksgiving. This day has been acknowledged by every president since. The date has been moved around a few times, most recently by Franklin Roosevelt to establish a longer Christmas shopping season during tough economic times.

Finally in 1941 the U.S. Congress officially sanctioned a legal federal holiday every fourth Thursday in November to be recognized as Thanksgiving Day.

As you see Thanksgiving has survived centuries of change and times of absence, but the forefathers of our nation saw the need to always remember to give thanks for the luxuries we have. So take time this week to think about the personal liberties and freedom we have as Americans and be thankful for the blessing God has provided us with. Take the time to say thank you to all those that have made your life a blessing.

On top of that list should be God, the U.S. Armed Forces past and present, family and friends.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.