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Christmas_before_Thanksgiving_by_soulchaserzeroI have seen all over Facebook and on many blogs, people bemoaning the insidious attack on Christmas.  How they loudly and proudly state that They say Merry Christmas! Or keep The Christ in Christmas. Ok, I will get back to this one nearer to Yule but for now I want to discuss Thanksgiving Day. A holiday that celebrates family, the bounty of the harvest and the traditions that were started in a new nation. Come on people, we don’t have many of them that are strictly ours. Traditions that were completely born in the United States of America. If you want to discuss a holiday truly under attack. Let’s discuss Thanksgiving.

Retailers pushes holidays and seasons further and further away. You ever try to get a bathing suit during summer? Or mittens during winter? Some of us saw Christmas decorations before Halloween. How many of you even noticed Thanksgiving decorations at all? How many of you remember why we celebrate this holiday?

Now those of you that are reading my blog know that I am from Salisbury, Massachusetts and hail from an old New England family. One that founded Salisbury Mayflower Societyand has been present and active through all of the birthing pains of a new nation. This was all on my grandfather’s side of the family, or so I thought. My grandmother has always kidded around and said that her family was on a banana boat behind the Mayflower. Well upon further research by the family’s genealogist, Aunt. I can proudly state that I qualify for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Both sides of the family were on the ship. William Mullins on my grandfather’s side and George Soule on my grandmother’s. I want to surprise my grandmother with membership and have taken the steps towards this endeavor.


Mayflower II

Last year The Firefighter and I went to Plymouth and toured the Mayflower II. She is the exact replica of the original ship. We were really struck by the size of her. She was incredibly small for the amount of people on board her. The total living space for the passengers was 58′ x 24′. I have problems on the T in Boston sometimes. I can’t imagine having to live for 66 days at sea like this and then another couple of months after reaching land.
The entire voyage was wrought with problems from a leaky second ship the Speedwell, a six week late departure, to rough seas and finally missing their intended landing area. The Speedwell had started the journey, but both ships had to turn around because the Speedwell’s leaks could not be repaired. The Mayflower then continued on its own.
On November 9, 1620 they had reach Cape Cod. There original destination was somewhere near present day New York. They were unable to turn around due to rough seas and laid anchor on the 11th. For the next two months the area was explored and on December 25th they determined the location for their plantation. There was evidence of a village that had once stood, with tilled fields and and a storage of corn and beans. This was a Patuxet village that had been wiped out by a plague brought by English slavers. The first building that was erected burned to the ground just as sickness swept through the colonist. Some believe that this was more than likely pneumonia and it was devastating. Cutting the numbers of both the crew of the Mayflower and the colonists in half.
The colonist had brief encounters with the local surrounding tribe, but it was not until Samoset an Algonquin, whom had been taught english from some European fishermen, walked into the colony. Samoset was the liaison that introduced both the Wampanoag and Squanto the last remaining Patuxet native to the colonists. Squanto had escaped the plague when he was taken and sold into slavery to Spain. He had jumped ship and went to England (where he learned English), then to Newfoundland and finally back home in 1618 where he found that his people had been wiped out. Without Sqanto’s help the colonists would have not survived. He taught them how to make maple syrup, grow corn , to fish and to connect with the Earth.
The First Thanksgiving, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863 - 1930)

The First Thanksgiving, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863 – 1930)

The survival of the colonists to the next years bounty brought by the teaching of Squanto was celebrated by a three day feast. was “the historical birth of the American Thanksgiving holiday.”
Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts had always been a part of Wampanoag daily life. From ancient times, Native People of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child. Giving thanks was, and still is, the primary reason for ceremonies or celebrations.
As with Native traditions in America, celebrations – complete with merrymaking and feasting – in England and throughout Europe after a successful crop are as ancient as the harvest-time itself. In 1621, when their labors were rewarded with a bountiful harvest after a year of sickness and scarcity, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty in the Harvest Home tradition with feasting and sport (recreation). To these people of strong Christian faith, this was not merely a revel; it was also a joyous outpouring of gratitude. – http://www.plimoth.org/

Evolution of Thanksgiving

  • 1777 Continental Congress proclaimed first Thanksgiving, this fell out of practice.
  • 1863 Sarah Josepha Hale, convinced President Lincoln to proclaim this a national holiday. She had doggedly pursued this with each President before Lincoln for 36 years.
  • President Lincoln declared two Thanksgiving Days. One in August to celebrate Gettysburg and one the last thursday in November.
  • 1939 President Franklin D Roosevelt changed it to the second to last Thursday. This was to lengthen the shopping holiday.
  • 1941 Congress established Thanksgiving Day as the fourth Thursday of November.
  • 2012 was the earliest it could be in November and 2013 is the latest it can be.
  • 2013 first time since 1888 that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving occur together.

For the past couple of years my daughter has had Thanksgiving at her home in Manchester, NH. We will be celebrating this Sunday the 24th as both she and her husband have to work on the 28th. We will celebrate the holiday with their menagerie of rescues, from furred to scaled including two ridiculous goofy pit bulls. On Thanksgiving morning the tradition in our home is to eat cinnamon rolls and watch the parades on TV flipping back and forth between the two. The kids will come down for that so we can spend some time on the actual holiday day. Later that day we will head to my dad’s home in Newton, NH and have the meal with him, his wife and my step-sisters and their families.

Thanksgiving is a very important holiday and one that should be defended. Especially here in New England. And since we at times set the tone for the country, we should be leading the way. This is a National Holiday and one specifically meant to be celebrated and shared with family. To support any business that is open on Thanksgiving is to say its ok to loose one more tradition. It is a slap in the face to those our ancestors whom decided to come to a new country for a better life. It is a disregard and dishonor to the bravery and compassion that a native people showed to foreign invaders that came to their shores. It is not a throw away holiday it is important and we need to keep it.