Much of the news on a daily basis is disturbing, including word of serious challenges for the world and the United States, but Americans have much to be thankful for. And we have a wonderful tradition of giving thanks on a special day, as recounted in this editorial annually since 2007.
It is a truly American holiday. It began with some of the first British colonists to journey to the New World. The Pilgrims, about 102 people, sailed for some two months on the Mayflower, kept in the cargo space during violent storms. They reached Plymouth Rock on Dec. 11, 1620, near the beginning of winter.
The climate in New England was harsh, and nearly half the group died during the cold winter. The next spring, a Native American called Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to grow food to survive. During a severe drought in the summer of 1621, the Pilgrims held a day of fasting and prayer and asked for a bountiful harvest. Rain soon followed.
It is believed that a thanksgiving feast was held that autumn, with Indian neighbors invited. Some historians doubt this account because they say the Pilgrims would have fasted on such a day. However, the leader of the colony later wrote a report listing the menu, which included ducks and geese. Turkey was not mentioned. Boiled pumpkin was, although a shortage of flour probably meant there was no pie.
The feast reportedly lasted three days but was not repeated until two years later, in another year of drought. A similar celebration is believed to have been held by colonists in Virginia.
All 13 colonies joined in a thanksgiving celebration in 1777, a time of victory over the British during the Revolutionary War. After several changes, President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, during the Civil War, proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. This followed a campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor. The holiday is now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Canadians mark the day in October.
Thanksgiving ushers in the Christmas and holiday season, when many people devote some effort to helping those less fortunate. For years a free meal has been served in Casa Grande and other communities. Volunteers come together to make this happen.
Food and toy drives gear up at this time to help people during the Christmas season. The needs in this area are great. Of course, these needs exist all year, but donations during this time sustain some organizations for a while. Also, they help make the holiday season brighter for some children and families.
This time for giving thanks — and overconsumption at the dinner table — is a fitting occasion to commit to joining in some of the efforts of generosity.