Giving thanks this holiday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Today we celebrate a great All-American holiday, Thanksgiving.

There are a lot of traditions surrounding Thanksgiving, and a lot of myths as well.

According to, which interviewed a historian at Plimoth Plantation, Thanksgiving was based on the Puritan religious celebration of giving thanks, combined with the harvest celebrations of England and New England.

Email newsletter signup

We traditionally look at 1621 as the original Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date as the fourth Thursday of November.

The traditional foods we enjoy as part of our Thanksgiving meal were most likely not on the menu in 1621.

The only thing historians know for sure was on the menu was venison and fowl. Other items that may have been eaten include cod, eel, clams, lobster, wild turkey, goose, swan, seal, Indian corn, pumpkin, peas, beans, onions, plus, grapes, walnuts, chestnuts and acorns – all items available to the early settlers.

Foods that were not on the menu include ham, sweet potatoes or potatoes, corn on the cob and cranberry sauce. (While colonist had cranberries, they didn’t have sugar).

Edward Winslow wrote in “A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth” in 1621, ” …

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.”

The Native Americans also had their own traditional Thanksgiving ceremonies, which were combined into this 1621 celebration.

Today, we’ll eat turkey, visit with family and friends, watch football, and then eat leftovers.

But, let’s not forget what this day is really about – giving thanks. We have a lot to be thankful for, including the basics like food, shelter and community. The victims of this year’s hurricanes know the value of having basic needs met. The rest of us saw images on television that will remain with us for a long time – fellow Americans struggling to survive after the tragedy of Katrina.

On this day, let’s be grateful for these simple things we enjoy, and most often, take for granted.