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Plymouth, Massachusetts: The Roots of Thanksgiving

Plymouth, Massachusetts: The Roots of Thanksgiving
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Squanto and the Wampanoags

Squanto was a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been enslaved by an English sea captain before escaping and returning home. He introduced the Pilgrims to Chief Massasoit and Samoset. The Native Americans educated their new neighbors about things to plant, what not to eat as well as what they could eat and how, which gave the Pilgrims an opportunity to survive in this new land. In November of 1621, feeling lucky to be alive, the Pilgrims invited their new friends to join them for some possible military type exercises and the feast.

Some rights reserved by mccready
Some rights reserved by mccready

Thanksgiving, The Holiday

Some rights reserved by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
Some rights reserved by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Thanksgiving had no set date for many years, though President Washington proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789. States then chose their own day to be thankful, though most held it on the last Thursday in November. President Lincoln named the final Thursday in November to be a country wide Thanksgiving hoping to bring unity to a divided America. The southern states refused to join in until after the completion of the Reconstruction.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution with the Congress in December of 1941 changing it to the fourth Thursday in November. He felt the earlier date would help the economy (apparently he was a Black Friday shopper).

For many of us, Thanksgiving means watching a parade, likely some football games, cooking and eating.  The president makes a proclamation and pardons a turkey! Plimoth Plantation, a living museum, provides an opportunity to meet and speak with people who can explain life in the English plantation as well as in the Wampanoag tribe. The current tribe has a reservation on Martha’s Vineyard in the town of Aquinnah, which used to be Gay Head, as well as a reservation in Mashpee on Cape Cod.


Plimoth or Plymouth?

Plan to attend dinner at Plimoth Plantation and see what life was like. Plymouth is a charming place to visit, with a beautiful coastline, beaches, hills and the Myles Standish State Forest. I am sure it looked overwhelming to the Pilgrims, but also exciting and beautiful. The city offers road races, a waterfront festival and many other events throughout the year, but it is the only city from which the Mayflower II is setting sail!


Gratitude

This year, as you sit down to dinner and you look around the table and realize how thankful you are for whatever blessings you have, also be thankful for those brave, naive, dedicated souls who left the security of a country they knew to sail across an ocean with all the turmoil of bad weather, taking on water and sea sickness (there was no patch) to come to a place where they had nothing.

Some rights reserved by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism
Some rights reserved by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Think of the determination and faith that journey required. Knowing many in their home country did not care if they lived or died, they clung together through harsh, New England weather to settle here. A misfit group, seeking a place to worship as they chose, hoping for a place to raise their children in peace, they came here and barely survived to settle Plimoth Plantation. And let us not forget their generous and accepting friends, the Wampanoag Tribe, who helped them learn how to live in their new home. Let’s be thankful for the Pilgrims and Native Americans and the friendship they found in one another.


Featured Image: Some rights reserved by sailn1

Heath, Dwight B. Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Cambridge: Applewood, 1986. Print.

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