I came across this piece by 'coincidence', and it seems a really good time to share with my American 'family.' Go read the rest of this great column here.
Account of the First Harvest Feast and Thanksgiving
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Some historians note that the first thanksgiving was recorded on December 4, 1619, when 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred on the north bank of the James River about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, the first permanent Colony of Virginia settlement established on May 14, 1607.
The charter for the settlers at Berkeley Hundred required "We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
To that end, Captain John Woodleaf led that service.
However, the first harvest feast and thanksgiving was at Plymouth Colony in 1621, and it is that iconic event that is now considered, the First Thanksgiving.
President Ronald Reagan often cited the Pilgrims who celebrated the First Thanksgiving as our forebears who charted the path of American freedom. He made frequent reference to John Winthrop's "shining city upon a hill."
As Reagan explained, "The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free."
Who were these "freedom men," and how did they eventually blaze the path of true liberty?
They were Calvinist Protestants who rejected the institutional Church of England, believing that worshipping God must originate freely in the individual soul, without coercion. Suffering persecution and imprisonment in England for their beliefs, a group of these separatists fled to Holland in 1608. There, they found spiritual liberty in the midst of a disjointed economy that failed to provide adequate compensation for their labors, and a dissolute, degraded, corrupt culture that tempted their children to stray from faith.
Determined to protect their families from such spiritual and cultural dangers, the Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620, sailing for a new world that offered the promise of both civil and religious liberty. After an arduous journey, they dropped anchor off the coast of what is now Massachusetts.
On 11 December 1620, prior to disembarking at Plymouth Rock, they signed the Mayflower Compact, America's original document of civil government. It was the first to introduce self-government, and the foundation on which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were built. Governor William Bradford described the Compact as "a combination ... that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them."
Upon landing, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. Under harrowing conditions, the colonists persisted through prayer and hard work, but the Winter of 1621 was devastating and only 53 of the original party survived.
However, with the help of the indigenous "Indians" in the region, by Autumn of 1621 the Pilgrims had enough produce to hold a three day feast and time of thanksgiving.
Plymouth Colony's governor, William Bradford, recorded in his history of the Colony: "They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to the proportion."...
Give thanks, America, as I give thanks for all of you!!!
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