Gossip Herald

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

The traditional Thanksgiving story is that some time in the fall of 1621, the settlers at Plymouth, Mass., held a feast to thank God they'd survived their harrowing first year in the New World.

They invited neighboring Indians, who had taught them agricultural skills critical to their survival. Together they celebrated their good fortune with a three-day feast.

There is a problem with the traditional story - no one invited the Indians.

The settlers threw the party for themselves. Members of the local Wampanoag tribe arrived only after hearing the English firing their arms in celebration. This view may be historically accurate.

A firsthand account of the original Thanksgiving is provided in "Mourt's Relations," a series of letters written in 1620 and 1621, primarily by settler Edward Winslow.

He writes of a harvest celebration, "at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor."

Actually, the harvest of 1621 wasn't great at all. The barley, wheat, and peas the Pilgrims brought with them from England had failed. Fortunately, the corn did well enough that they were able to double their weekly food rations.

The Pilgrims were happy to be alive: The previous winter had wiped out 47 people--almost half their community.

What people are thankful for changes from year to year.

The Founding Fathers were happy to have established a government. And Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation expressed thanks that the Civil War had not destroyed the country.

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed Congress. His "Four Freedoms" offered a vision in which the American ideals of individual liberties were extended throughout the world:

Four Freedoms We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.

The speech inspired Norman Rockwell to create a series of paintings on the "Four Freedoms," including "Freedom From Want."

In his Thanksgiving Day, 2008 Proclamation, President Bush reminds us that we have much to be thankful for:

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather together and express gratitude for all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives. We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God.

Every Thanksgiving, we remember the story of the Pilgrims who came to America in search of religious freedom and a better life. Having arrived in the New World, these early settlers gave thanks to the Author of Life for granting them safe passage to this abundant land and protecting them through a bitter winter. Our Nation's first President, George Washington, stated in the first Thanksgiving proclamation that "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor." While in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, asking God to heal our wounds and restore our country.

Today, as we look back on the beginnings of our democracy, Americans recall that we live in a land of many blessings where every person has the right to live, work, and worship in freedom. Our Nation is especially thankful for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who protect these rights while setting aside their own comfort and safety. Their courage keeps us free, their sacrifice makes us grateful, and their character makes us proud. Especially during the holidays, our whole country keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Americans are also mindful of the need to share our gifts with others, and our Nation is moved to compassionate action. We pay tribute to all caring citizens who reach out a helping hand and serve a cause larger than themselves.

On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation's first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.

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