Happy Thanksgiving from Our Homes to Yours

width=263Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN Texas Nothing says were thankful like fighting each other and beating up security guards to wrestle goods out of each others hands because its a sale we cant refuse says John Stonestreet laying out three reasons Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. More traditional Thanksgiving Traditions say ... In September 1620 a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth England carrying 102 passengers an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and others lured by the promise of prosperity & land in the New World.     After a treacherous and uncomfortable 66 days they dropped anchor near Cape Cod far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay where the Pilgrims as they are now commonly known began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth. Throughout that first brutal winter most of the colonists remained on board the ship where they suffered from exposure scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflowers original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March the remaining settlers moved ashore where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. 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 slavery before escaping to London and returning to his width=98homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims weakened by malnutrition and illness how to cultivate corn extract sap from maple trees catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag a local tribe which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans. In November 1621 after the Pilgrims first corn harvest proved successful Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colonys Native American allies including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as Americans first Thanksgiving" although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquets exact menu the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a fowling" mission in preparation for the event and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflowers sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621 the meal did not feature pies cakes or other desserts which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations. Thanksgiving Becomes an Official Holiday Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the years harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional width=124basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. During the American Revolution the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the countrys war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies. In 1817 New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day however and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827 the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Haleauthor among countless other things of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb"launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors senators presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863 at the height of the Civil War in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to commend to his tender care all those who have become widows orphans mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to heal the wounds of the nation." He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelts plan known derisively as Franksgiving was met with passionate opposition and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November. width=202Thanksgiving Traditions In many American households the Thanksgiving celebration has lost much of its original religious significance; instead it now centers on cooking and sharing a bountiful meal with family and friends. Turkey a Thanksgiving staple so ubiquitous it has become all but synonymous with the holiday may or may not have been on offer when the Pilgrims hosted the inaugural feast in 1621. Today however nearly 90 percent of Americans eat the birdwhether roasted baked or deep-fried on Thanksgiving according to the National Turkey Federation. Other traditional foods include stuffing mashed potatoes cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is a common Thanksgiving Day activity and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate. Parades have also become an integral part of the holiday in cities and towns across the United States. Presented by Macys department store since 1924 New York Citys Thanksgiving Day parade is the largest and most famous attracting some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It typically features marching bands performers elaborate floats conveying various celebrities and giant balloons shaped like cartoon characters. Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier the president of the United States has pardoned" one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year sparing the birds from slaughter and sending them to a farm for retirement. A number of U.S. governors also perform the annual turkey pardoning ritual. Thanksgiving Controversies For some scholars the jury is still out on whether the feast at Plymouth really constituted the first Thanksgiving in the United States. Indeed historians have recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America that predate the Pilgrims celebration.
  • In 1565 for instance the Spanish explorer Pedro Menndez de Avil invited members of the local Timucua tribe to a dinner in St. Augustine Florida after holding a mass to thank God for his crews safe arrival.
  • On December 4 1619 when 38 British settlers reached a site known as Berkeley Hundred on the banks of Virginias James River they read a proclamation designating the date as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public and especially to schoolchildren. In their view the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions. Since 1970 protesters have gathered on the day designated as Thanksgiving at the top of Coles Hill which overlooks Plymouth Rock to commemorate a National Day of Mourning." Similar events are held in other parts of the country.
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