Festival

Is Thanksgiving just about a holiday?


Thanksgiving Day is on Thursday, 22 November 2012.

People working for overseas companies are really thrilled at the thought of national holidays observed overseas. Why? This means they either get a day off or they won’t have to work much at office. We just leave it at that. While Americans, Europeans and other foreign nationals show interest in learning about the richness in Indian culture, we are satisfied with having holidays for their cultural events. So I thought this would be a right opportunity to try and understand the foreign culture, now that we have a festive season upon us.

What is the history of Thanksgiving?

In September 1620, a ship known as Mayflower left Plymouth, England, to the new world – The America. Mayflower shipped 102 passengers who were religious leftists, seeking a new home to freely practice their faith or individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. Through the treacherous seas they travelled for 66 days, in hopes of finding a better place to live in. Finally they dropped the anchor at the tip of Cape Cod, only to realize they had landed far away from their intended destination, which was the mouth of the Hudson River. But these persistent travelers crossed Massachusetts Bay a month later to begin establishing the village of Plymouth in America.

New England greeted them with a brutal winter forcing them to stay adobe Mayflower. They suffered from outbreak of contagious diseases due to lack of food, water, and proper sanitary conditions. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers survived against all odds to breathe the crisp air of New England’s spring. In March, the remaining survivors slowly started moving ashore in the hopes of starting afresh after days of struggle. To their surprise, they were visited by an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. The Indian lent a sympathetic ear to the woes of the Pilgrims and promised to help them in all the ways possible. 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. Since the Pilgrims were weakened by malnutrition and illness similar to Squanto’s days in slavery, he vowed to make the lives of the Pilgrims better. He taught the Pilgrims agriculture and fishing. He played an important role in forging an alliance between Wampanoag, a local tribe, and the Pilgrims. This alliance facilitated by Squanto stood the test of time for more than 50 years and remains one of the reasons of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans till date.

In November 1621, the Pilgrims’ hard work under the tutelage of Squanto proved successful and they quite literally reaped the benefits of their hard work. To mark the success of the pilgrims’ first corn harvest, Governor William Bradford organized a feast for the pilgrims. He also invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief, Massasoit to show the tribes their gratitude for the help the tribes extended to the pilgrims. The celebration lasted for three days. This day was later termed as ‘Thanksgiving.

History also throws a little insight on the menu of the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving banquet. A pilgrim chronicler, Edward Winslow recorded the events of the first Thanksgiving in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four of his men on a hunting mission to prepare for the feast, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer to honor the pilgrims’ invitation. Based on the historical artifacts, we understand that the menu was prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Thanksgiving meals featured pies, cakes and other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations, only at the later part of the 19th century.

To sum up, Thanksgiving is the time when you are in the cusp of the dawn of a new year and would want to reflect on the year that has gone by. There would be a lot of people who would have helped you during the time of difficulties and supported you otherwise and you would want to thank them. Or for some of us, it is that time of year where we are just thankful for being alive and we want to celebrate it with our loved ones. It is never too late to thank a fellow human being, is there?

For some of us thanking would be verbal or by means of a hug and spending time over dinner with people we care. Some others express their gratitude by doing social service, offering help for the old and needy, contributing to under-privileged children, offering prayers for the wellness of our fellow human beings. The most important thing here is to be thankful and the gesture would just be a bonus. Finally, this is the whole meaning of Thanksgiving isn’t it – to let someone know that you care and bring a smile on their face! Happy Thanksgiving!

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