For me, the Thanksgiving holiday conjures visions of family gatherings, an outpouring of love, laughter, a ton of delicious food crowding the table, and a silent inventory of things I'm thankful for. That list is endless, but always begins with my wondrous, amazing family. When I contemplate that family, I have to include my adventurous ancestors. They who gathered their courage, hopes and dreams, boarded a ship, and sailed to America.
|"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall, 1882
John Howland and Elizabeth Tillie, my ninth great-grandparents through my father's maternal side, were the first of my ancestors to do just that. They boarded the Mayflower in England, as single, young adults, September 16, 1620. The ship dropped anchor at Plymouth Rock on the 16th of December, that same year. Three years later, John and Elizabeth were married after surviving the hardships of the first deadly winter that claimed the lives of half the passengers.
This couple most assuredly participated in the autumn celebration of 1621, known to us as the "First Thanksgiving." However, the pilgrims would not have recognized this particular feast as one of "Thanksgiving," in what they might consider the traditional sense. For them, the solemn Thanksgiving ceremony wherein they gave thanks to God for their good fortune as a congregation, did not take place until the year 1623. That year, and in response to the arrival of new colonists and fresh supplies, they observed a full day of worship and prayer.
|The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Be that as it may, in the fall of 1621 the fifty-three surviving Pilgrims, Massasoit-- the leader of the Wampanoag tribe--and ninety of his warriors, celebrated the first American harvest festival for three full days. The feast was a grand affair and not only included the now traditional turkey, but all types of waterfowl and fish. The Native Americans supplied the table with venison. Alongside the food, the celebration included games, the singing of secular songs, and dancing.
More of my ancestors followed their example over the ensuing centuries. The last of which, boarded a ship in Denmark May 28, 1881, and arrived in New York Harbor July 4 1881. I am grateful to each of them.
So mark it on your calendar and head to Amazon.com to claim yours!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Enjoy!