I had something pithy and profound to share, but in my early Black Friday haze, it’s forgotten. One thing that I’ve been thinking about during this season of Thanks-giving is how our traditions have morphed over the years into something else…the meaning of Thanksgiving can get lost in the pre-holiday grocery shopping hysteria and meal planning. We need to figure out family logistics–Whose home will be invaded? Who made what last year? We can’t have a proper Thanksgiving if we don’t have: A. Turkey; B. Stuffing; C. Some type of potato/starch; D. Cranberry Sauce; and E. Pumpkin pie and other desserts. We must also eat the equivalent of two days’ worth of calories, and the men will zonk out in front of the football games and the women take out the shopping papers. That’s Thanksgiving, right?
I’ve often tried to imagine what the first Thanksgiving was like back in 1621. I picture a group of people, tight-knit by this time after all they’ve been through–a long sea voyage, disease, a harsh winter, near starvation, followed by the hard work of a growing season. Finally, a glimmer of hope after they bring in a harvest. The coming winter will be no less harrowing than the last, but this time they’re better prepared. They sit down to have a celebratory meal, and some guests show up. It’s the locals, who’ve been instrumental in their survival. These survivors owe a great debt of gratitude to the natives. So they sit down and food brings them together. They say a “thank you” to God and Providence for being here, one year later. Perhaps they think of those they’ve lost. Their party lasted for three days, according to the account of Edward Winslow, in a letter he wrote in December 1621.
“Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” ~ Edward Winslow (bold added by me)
So feast away on what you can find. It needn’t be turkey. As you enjoy your leftovers, resist the pull of media to turn Thanksgiving into another shopping holiday. Yes, I love a good shopping deal, but that’s not Thanksgiving and not Christmas for me. I will not heap stress upon stress on myself in the next four weeks because of the pressure to make a proper holiday season. Who’s with me?
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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip.