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11/24/2021 “Happy Thanksgiving”   Leave a comment

Since posting the real letters of a real Pilgrim yesterday I thought I’d covered the holiday rather well. Today I did a little net surfing and made the mistake of reading the Wikipedia entry on the history of Thanksgiving. It irritates me a little when they spend so much time telling me about some meaningless conflict over where Thanksgiving originated.  In their opinion 36 colonists arriving in Virginia in 1619 gave thanks that they survived the crossing and years later it was claimed by some Virginians as the birth place of Thanksgiving. I just don’t see that as the real Thanksgiving. Did they celebrate with the native Americans? Who knows? Did any of them survive that first winter? Who knows? Maybe in 1000 A.D. Leif Ericson and a few Vikings landed in northern Maine and were thankful for not running out of food and water. Was that the real Thanksgiving? Now that I think about it, how about Ponce de Leon. He landed in Florida in late March of 1513, near present-day St. Augustine. He claimed this beautiful land for Spain and I’m sure he gave thanks for surviving his arrival. Then we must of course celebrate Thanksgiving as a Spanish holiday in March. Really, I think I’d prefer to celebrate that Viking holiday in Maine as the real one compared something Spanish. These kinds of arguments are all so much hogwash and an entire waste of everyone’s time.

I wasn’t planning a rant against Wikipedia but once again I want it understood I’m skeptical of a lot of their information, but that’s just my humble opinion.

Why I’m even bothering to rant is the real question. Well, I once lived in Kingston, Massachusetts, just a few short miles from where the Mayflower is berthed in Plymouth harbor. A few of my friends were actual descendants of the Wampanoag Indian tribe who assisted the Pilgrims back in the day. I was lucky enough to hear from them about their version of Thanksgiving. I’ve visited the Plimouth Plantation on many occasions and once even ate Thanksgiving dinner there with some family and friends. Screw Wikipedia and their politically correct nonsense.

The traditional celebration is one of the few holidays left that has actual meaning for me. I just can’t allow that tradition to be watered down with a lot of political nonsense. Enjoy your holiday with your friends and family. Give thanks for every good thing you can think of. Have a great meal and a pleasant day and hug your kids.

Just as a side note. I won’t be posting tomorrow because I’ll be doing all of those things myself.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

11/23/2021 The Real Thanksgiving   2 comments

With Thanksgiving only two days away I thought you might find this little bit of our history appropriate. Being a lover of history has been a source of pleasure for me for many years. I love reading about anything historical especially everything I could find on the United States and how it was created. We’re coming up on one of my most favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. In my mind it was the only holiday that we had that meant something real to me. People giving thanks for the things in their life that needed to be appreciated and shared with friends and family. To show appreciation for the many good things and good people that have impacted our lives in the last year and before.

I sometimes think how many of our holidays have changed in the eyes of the citizenry. Christmas went from being a religious celebration of the birth of Christ and turned into an insanely greedy holiday about gifts and presents. Thanksgiving always meant much more to me than any holiday for all of the best reasons. Time with family and friends that was hard to come by most of the year. When Thanksgiving came everyone showed up regardless of any interruptions from outside influences like work and business. It was quality time for me and mine which was sorely lacking most of the year. It was time to eat grandma’s special gravy of which she never gave anyone that recipe. It was the goal of all of the younger generations to somehow convince her to give that up but the old girl took it to her grave except for a few hints she gave me. I make a one helluva gravy but it’s still not as good as hers.

These days Thanksgiving is just a prelude to shopping. I’d like to meet the guy that came up with the Black Friday nonsense and beat him senseless. I hate to say this but there might be one plus coming out of this pandemic and that is the hope that Thanksgiving will return to what it was in years past. Most of the younger generations now know little or nothing about the history of how Thanksgiving became Thanksgiving and all of the people that suffered and died to make the first one happen. I’m finishing this post with three letters written by a young lady named Lizzy to her aunt Constance. The first letter was written during the crossing from England to Plymouth on the Mayflower, the second is about her arrival and the setup of the colony, and the third is concerning the first Thanksgiving celebration with the local Indians. Put yourself in her place as you read these letters and show or read them to your children or grandchildren. It’ll give all of you a better understanding and perspective on what it actually means to be thankful for something. I hope you enjoy them.

LETTER #1

Dearest Aunt Constance,

You wondered what life in a ship would be like. I can now tell you, I would trade my bed for yours in the beat of a heart! I sleep on a damp bed in a tiny cabin with mother and father. We are all packed in like so much cargo below deck. We do not know many of the other passengers, yet we live nearly on top of each other. Few of us have ever been aboard a ship, and there is much seasickness. The stench is most awful! I welcome the times when we are allowed to go on deck to empty our chamber pots and breathe the fresh air.

When the weather is fair, the days are much the same. We pray as we rise in the morning and before and after we take our meals. For food we commonly have pease or bean pottage, cheese and ship’s biscuit. For drink, we have beer. We have some water but they say it will soon go bad.

Did I tell you that I have a friend? Her name is Mary and I am so grateful for her. Mary and I play games, tell riddles, sing or just speak to each other. It is often too dark to even read. There are few other lasses on the ship since most families left their daughters behind until our town is built. The sailors will sometimes allow us on deck, but they are a hard lot and frighten me somewhat. Master Goodman brought his two dogs—a mastiff and a spaniel—and we chase them as they chase the mousers that chase the rats. Have I made mention of the rats? They are almost as great in size as the mousers!

May the Lord help us when the weather is not fair. Father told me that sailors usually seek safe harbor in the autumn and now I know why. The storms are fearsome! They roll and toss our poor ship which creaks and moans as though it will break apart. My arms and legs are bruised from being thrown about and having things fall on me. In one storm, a young man was thrown into the sea, but by God’s good will he caught hold of a line that was dragging in the water and was saved. Just a fortnight ago came the worst storm yet. Aunt Constance, I thought we would all surely drown and become food for the fishes. The ship’s upper works were leaking and of a sudden there was a great snap! Master Carver told us that one of the ship’s main beams had cracked. Many of the crew wanted to turn back, but after much consultation, t’was decided that we would continue . The carpenters and sailors mended the beam and caulked the leaks.

Thus we put our faith in God and we press on. I do not think that I can stand such a fright again. I pray that we reach the New World soon.

Your loving niece,

Lizzy

LETTER #2

Dearest Aunt Constance,

I was so grateful to arrive in the New World, but I am now beginning to wish that we had never left home. I know that father had a hard life in England because he was punished for following his conscience and worshipping in the Separatist Church, but I wonder if it could have been as hard as this.

We arrived here just as winter did. It is bitter cold and snow is almost always upon the ground, but God has blessed us with a place to start our new town. There is a fair brook running under a high hill that Father says will offer us protection from our enemies. The men have begun building houses on land, but we must remain on the ship until they are nearer to being finished. I never thought I would still be aboard the ship for so long after we arrived! I suppose it is safer on the ship. I know not what to think of the naturals of this place that are called Indians. The first time some of our men encountered them, there was a fight though by God’s blessing no one was injured. We are on our guard now.

Master Goodman—the one with the dogs—has become quite ill. He was out cutting thatch with Peter Brown when his dogs chased a great deer deep into the forest. They chased after them and were soon lost, and had to pass the night in the wilderness. When they found their way back the next afternoon, Master Goodman had to have his shoes cut off his feet as they were so swollen with the cold. Many of our party have already died, among them Mary’s mother and father. I cannot think how lost I would be in this strange and frightful place without mother and father. I pray that they will not succumb to scurvy and other diseases. I mean not to be so grim, but I fear that things could get far worse. We are near to scraping the bottoms of the barrels of rice, peas, and biscuit, and the men have had little fortune in hunting. I am worried, though I know that with God’s help we will survive this dark winter.

Your loving niece,

Lizzy

LETTER #3

Dearest Aunt Constance,

Pray forgive me for being so long between letters. After the great sickness it seemed that there was little good to write about. By the time spring arrived, nearly half of our number had died. Twas truly a mournful time. Since then we have continued to build houses and have planted our gardens and many acres of our English corns. In time, I think we may come to prosper here. We have even begun to grow a curious corn that we call Indian corn or turkey wheat.

How we learned to grow this Indian corn was most unexpected. Last spring a tall Indian walked into our town, causing great alarm. To our great astonishment, he spoke in our tongue, saying “Welcome Englishmen.” He told us that his name was Samoset and that he had learned English from fishermen to the north of here. Samoset returned the next day with Tisquantum, whose English was as fine as yours and mine. Tisquantum told us how his people used to live where we now live, but that a few years before we arrived a plague had come and wiped out the town. He has been a great blessing to us, showing us how to grow Indian corn in mounds. He even told us to put herring in the ground to make the corn grow better. It works as well as using manure and our harvest was quite fine. Tisquantum also showed us how to fish and the best places to hunt. I fear that we would not have survived here were it not for the help of Tisquantum and others.

To celebrate our first harvest our Governor, Master Bradford, called for a celebration. Four men went hunting wild fowl and brought back enough geese, ducks and other birds to last nearly a week! We ate, played at games, and the men practiced shooting their muskets. The Indians came amongst us as well, among them their greatest King Massasoit and more than 90 men! I was most frightened at first, but they stayed for three days and we entertained and feasted them. And they went out and brought us five deer. While they were here I even saw some of their children! One boy, father says he thinks that his name is Po-met-a-comet, threw a ball to me. Of course he could not speak English and I could not speak the Indian tongue.

And now we have a new ship in the harbor! It is wonderful that we have new folk to settle here, but I fear that our harvest, which seemed plentiful enough, will not be enough for all of us and the newcomers. Father says that we will fill this ship full of timber and furs to send back to England. Perhaps on the next ship they will send over cows!

Dearest Aunt Constance, I truly hope that you will come to join us in New Plimoth. I pray that soon we will be a thriving town.

Your loving niece,

Lizzy

HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING

11-27-2013. Thanksgiving   2 comments

It’s just turning 6 am on Thanksgiving morning.  It’s a windy and chilly day as it seems to be every year on Thanksgiving and I love it.  This just happens to be the one holiday that means more to me than any of the others.  Many holidays are religious and since I’m not a religious person they mean very little to me.  My best memories of my family are those from the many Thanksgivings we spent together.  There is no anticipation of gifts and the many negatives associated with that mind set.  It’s just a peaceful family gathering to share a meal and to be thankful for the good things in our lives.

I’m lying in bed with my better-half who’s sawing some serious logs next to me.  My cat just jumped up on the bed to demand his Thanksgiving breakfast, and the coffee pot just came alive and is beeping to let me know it’s time to get up.  This morning is  going to be just about me and that big, fat, twenty pound bird awaiting me in the kitchen.  I began thawing  him out two days ago and yesterday I began some of the prep work for his debut today.  Tradition means so much to me and I love preparing the bird.

As a youngster I spent all of my Thanksgivings with my immediate family at my grandmother’s home. She was an old school cook whose Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were the things of legend, just incredible.  She was responsible for my undying love of cranberry sauce (the jelly kind) and the stuffing and gravy she was famous for.  I begged her for years for her gravy recipe but she’d just smile and say “maybe when your a little older”.  She went to her grave with the secret and I’ve spent years still trying to get it  just right.  Man do I miss her at this time of the year.

As a young man I married and moved away from my home area in Pittsburgh to Massachusetts and lived twenty minutes from Plymouth Plantation.  I visited Plymouth every year and attended as many of the local celebrations as possible.  I ate Thanksgiving dinner at the Plantation, was on and off the Mayflower many times, and really developed a love for the area.  We even visited many of the Wampanoag  Indian ceremonies that we were introduced to us by a friend who was a member of the tribe.  It was a terrific tradition we’d developed but as in all things change was inevitable.

Divorce required me to find a new residence.  I bought a small cottage near the ocean in Kingston, Massachusetts only 5 minutes from downtown Plymouth.  I lived there for three years and submerged myself in the history of the Pilgrims, the Indians, and everything Thanksgiving.  Again changes had to be made when my company bankrupted and I moved to Maine.  For the next seven years I celebrated a rather lonely Thanksgiving tradition.  I returned home to Pittsburgh once or twice during that time but for the most part it was just me, my cat and two ferrets. I maintained my own tradition with a large turkey breast, stuffing and all the trimmings and made the most of my crappy situation. The memories of all my past Thanksgiving’s helped tremendously but once again change was in the air. It arrived unexpectedly in the person of my better-half.

After a few years of adjusting to one another we’ve finally settled into a rather happy life and the holiday traditions had to change once more. We both maintain certain of our own family Thanksgiving traditions and are now creating a few of our own.  This year we’re welcoming our new grandson to the table for the very first time.  He was just a pooping and crying ball of flesh last Thanksgiving but now he’s grown into a walking and almost talking little person about to be officially seated at the holiday table.  I hope in the years to come the memories of his grandmother will mean as much to him as mine do to me.

I also hope that your Thanksgiving will be even better than what you expected.  The best thing about traditions is their flexibility.  No matter how much change we’re forced to deal with, both good and bad, the traditions carry on regardless.  The thoughts of years past and loved ones who are no longer with us  are the real traditions and they can never be taken away.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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