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Thanksgiving: What a season of gratitude and hope teaches us

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During the trying times of the last couple of years, I am reminded that this is the season of giving thanks. I will admit that in the past the meaning of Thanksgiving was usually lost under the anticipation and management of a turkey. Nope, not a favorite uncle – a real turkey. And, of course, the dressing and all the other sides. The true meaning was lost somewhere in the planning, buying groceries, setting the table, and baking the pies. (I won’t even mention Black Friday.)

History of Thanksgiving – the story we know and love

The core teaching of the holiday stems from value of the giving between the native peoples, the Wampanoag, and the colonists at Plymouth. When the colonists finally left the ship, after a cruel and bitter winter, only half of the original people had survived. They were greeted by English-speaking Squanto, a native of the Pawtucket tribe. Squanto had been captured and taken to England, where he learned English, then later escaped to come back to his native home. He taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, catch fish and survive. He cemented the alliance between the local Wampanoag people and the colonists.

The celebration of the autumn harvest, the first Thanksgiving, was in 1621. It was a grand feast that lasted three days. The great chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit, attended with 90 of his men and brought five deer to share. That first Thanksgiving was a feast of friendship, despite drastic differences, as well as a celebration of survival. The alliance between the new colonists and native peoples lasted more than 50 years.

Thanksgiving becomes a national holiday

While states continued the tradition of Thanksgiving, it wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday to be celebrated every year in November. He declared it a day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War, when the nation was divided and at war with itself.

Not so happy Thanksgiving for the Wampanoag

The Smithsonian Magazine presents a different perspective of the Thanksgiving feast and the influence of the Pilgrims on the Wampanoag. While the Wampanoag native peoples did welcome or at least allowed entry to the Pilgrims, it was partially to help protect themselves against the Narragansetts. They did share an alliance with the Pilgrims that lasted 50 years, but in the end it devastated the Wampanoag. Disease spread, land was taken, resources abused, and it eventually ended in war that forever turned the power to the English. The Wampanoag sadly remember Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.

Remembering the spirit of the first Thanksgiving

Still, there is the spirit of Thanksgiving to remember. It would seem in this time – with the nation still politically divided, rising inflation, gas prices over the moon and simple groceries out of reach for many – it would behoove us to remember the good intentions of that first Thanksgiving. Then, it was the coming together of diverse people with different beliefs and lives. It was the community of people sharing the bounty of the fall harvest and giving thanks. Giving thanks for one another, for food, shelter and survival.

Survival

More than half of the Plymouth group died that first winter. I am sure they were hoping to survive what again could be a harsh and cruel winter. In a sense, we have done the same: Hoping to survive what has been a harsh and cruel time… holding out hope.

We have survived years of COVID, death and illness, businesses being shut down, evictions, homelessness, inflation rising and our nation still mired in political quicksand.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving, a day of giving thanks, reminds us of all we have, despite what we don’t have, despite our differences. It is a day of hope for family, friends and our nation to be united.

Two years ago our family met on Thanksgiving outside with masks and social distance. My 97-year-old dad was in his scooter making jokes. Last year my dad was dying and we celebrated Thanksgiving around a hospital bed in his home, thankful that he had been with us another year but knowing there would not be another Thanksgiving with him.

All year as we traveled toward him I had called him every day to tell him where we were. He followed along on a map. I would tell him to hang on … we would be there soon. We had a little over a month with him and he died shortly after that Thanksgiving.

This year is lonely without him. My father was not demonstrative. A pat on the back would suffice for a hug. But he loved the family to get together. When it wasn’t a special occasion he would call for  “Happy Hour” even after his health prevented even a sip of his favorite beer. My sister would rally to the occasion, fix plates of appetizers, and we would pick up his 92-year-old “girlfriend” from her house. Dad would zip over in his scooter to greet her. I miss that.

I will be grateful for the day filled with memories, with thanks for life, family and friends. Not just on this one special day, but I want to remember to have gratitude every day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

##RVT1079

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Karen Grace
17 days ago

Thanks Nanci, for a heartfelt article and remembrance.

Uncle Swags
17 days ago

The most important thing that has been forgotten is who they were giving thanks to – God.

bill semion
17 days ago

I enjoy celebrating both on Thursday, and Friday, remembering what European-Americans did to those who were here first.

Pat Bonito Sr
18 days ago

Thank you for providing the History of Thanksgiving article.
It is a story everyone should understand and embrace!
Good or bad, it is our history.

Steve H
18 days ago

Both of my grandfathers died days before Thanksgiving and “Black Friday” was one of their funerals in 1971. My dad and mom also died just a couple of weeks before the holiday in 2003 and 2011. So, Thanksgiving has been Remembrance Day for our family Thanksgivings for more than 50 years. We will always be thankful for the time we had with them and the loving care they gave us. Memories that are now shared with a generation of grandchildren who don’t remember any of them!

Tom E
18 days ago

This Thanksgiving we’ll be driving 9 hrs from here in FL to get to my wife’s family up in NC. We could have celebrated with friends in the RV park but opted this year for the long drive. My dad passed away 12 years ago. Mom, 4 years ago shortly after we spent our last Thanksgiving with her.

Ed D.
18 days ago
Reply to  Tom E

Hi Tom. I am sorry to hear about your parents passing. It is never an easy thing to get over. What part of NC are you going to visit? We have a summer place on Lake Chatuge in Hayesville, NC. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Bob p
18 days ago

You had a long time with your Dad, I’m sorry for your loss. I miss my parents also, Dad left at 87 Mom at 85 in 2009, 2010, we never stop missing them.

Ed D.
18 days ago

Wishing all of the Staff and Readership at RV Travel.com a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
May your homes be filled with the wonderful smells of delicious Foods and the sounds of Happiness.

Drew
18 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Thanks Ed- you too. -And Thank you Nanci for telling us about Thanksgiving and sharing your family’s history too.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
17 days ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Thank you, Ed! We wish you and yours, and all of our other wonderful readers, a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. 😀 –Diane

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