The holiday that many feel is the one they won't forget is upon us. Yes, that day they call the day to give thanks or "turkey" day is here. It falls on the fourth Thursday of November and is the only holiday this country has that officially lands on a Thursday, close to the middle of the week. Some businesses and banks make it a four-day weekend by giving Friday off, but not many.
This is a holiday where the Pilgrims, our forefathers, gave "thanks" for just being alive. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by 53 surviving pilgrims or about half those who set sail for the new world, along with 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe along with Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with them. They celebrated for three days after their first harvest in 1621. "The exact date is not known, but James Baker, the Plimoth Plantation vice president of research, stated in 1996, "The event occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621, with the most likely time being around Michaelmas (Sept. 29) the traditional time." The feast was cooked by four adult Pilgrim women who survived their first winter in the New World (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster and Susanna White), along with young daughters and male and female servants. The harvest being gotten in, the governor sent four men fowling. The four killed in one day as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost for a week. The Indian king Massasoit, with 90 men, were entertained and they went out and brought in five deer.
Now, that is apparently the start of this holiday of thanks called Thanksgiving.
Pres. George Washington, the leader of our revolutionary forces in the American Revolution, proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga. Abraham Lincoln in 1863 proclaimed the final Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving Day. In 1939, Franklin Delano Roosevelt broke tradition and proclaimed Thanksgiving as being the fourth Thursday of November. He thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas and help bring the country out of the great Depression.
So, now we get down to Thanksgiving 2017. Many have no idea what prompted this day of giving thanks. For most Americans, this is a day to bring families together, have a great feast of turkey and all the dishes that make that such a good meal, and catch up on what the families are doing or have been through. This isn't a big holiday from work for the females of the families or the men if they help, as it takes a lot of work to get the meal ready. For many cooks, this is a time to show off their expertise in the kitchen, while followers of football watch the Detroit Lions play some team on television.
I have some fantastic memories of going to my Grandma Lena's for Thanksgiving. They made the best gravy and stuffing there is. There were always many pies, including mincemeat. My sister Myrna and I loved mincemeat, but for some reason many didn't, so we would not take any, but when we went home we were given the mincemeat pies to gorge ourselves on. No one ever seemed to catch on. Oh yeah, we also had those traditional Norwegian pastries, krumkake and rosettes.
The main meal never started until the middle of the afternoon, but then we ate all day. Leftovers from Thanksgiving are the best.
This meal brought our families together and just made it a day to remember. We never said special thanks on that day, but the thought did go through our minds. We would give thanks in our thoughts to family members who had been sick or suffering hard times. We all gave thanks for being citizens of this country and living a great life.
My grandmother's house wasn't very large and could probably fit into our family room, but it didn't seem small. I can still see Grandma Lena at her stove in the corner of the kitchen, stirring the gravy, basting the turkey, wiping her glasses free of steam and smiling all the time. My aunts, mother Thelma, and some of the cousins would be scurrying around fixing the feast while the rest of us waited hungrily. I have no idea how we could all fit there, but we did and no one complained.
Times like those are times we give thanks for. This Thanksgiving, Edna and I will be working at the Cook Community Thanksgiving Dinner and I will be serving turkey as I have done for many years. This is a special time of wishing friends and neighbors a Merry Christmas. We will head to daughter Jodi's on Saturday for our family Thanksgiving and I will be pleased to see my two granddaughters, one in pre-med and the other about to graduate high school. They grow up too fast. I will be able to visit my brother and sister, too. Yes, this is a special day.
Happy Thanksgiving and when you go to church, say a prayer for those sons and daughters who are serving this country around the world and will miss Thanksgiving with their families. I was there, missing Thanksgiving while in Mississippi, England and in the mountains of eastern Turkey. Thanks to all our men and women in the service and those who have served before.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Have a Merry Christmas.