It was 1872 when the first Official Thanksgiving Holiday was had in Canada, and it was 1863 when it was first officially celebrated in The United States. For centuries, these two nations have celebrated a day of thanks. Or have they? It never surprises me how society mis-understands the true history/value of a holiday. I mean, Christmas is all about Santa Claus and the giving of presents right? I mean, never mind the fact that a dude named Christ was born and we're supposed to be celebrating his birthday. No one really even gets that Santa Claus didn't even exist until the 1820s and he first appeared as a cartoon character in a newspaper. Well, that's the American version, the real version being Saint Nicholas during the 4th century (think 5000 AD) who gave generous gifts to the poor. But what about Thanksgiving?..
Thanksgiving is a celebration of Good Harvest. Contrary to popular American beliefs, it has nothing to do with Pilgrims sitting down and having dinner with the natives. Though, that did come much later. The first Canadian Thanksgiving was held in 1578 (43 years before the first American version) by Martin Frobisher. He held the day to give thanks to his sailors, for enduring the hard, frozen, iceberg laden journey from England to Canada. They gave thanks to god and celebrated with communion (the breaking of bread) and the service continued in following years by rising population thanks to further expeditions to the new world.
But it's truly the American story that we all think of when we consider Thanksgiving. That feast on the shores of Plymouth, MA where the pilgrims had landed their ship and had made peace with the local "indians," Partly true, in 1621. The truth is, Thanksgiving feasts were had in 1565 in Florida, and in 1607 in Virginia. It was 1621 when the plymouth settlers didn't have enough food to feed the 102 colonists. So, the local natives taught them how to plant seeds and fish. It was in November of that year where they had a celebration of good harvest and invited their teachers (the natives) over to help celebrate and reap the rewards of this good harvest. The tradition of an annual feast was not a regular event until the 1660s.
Lets tie it into what we tend to discuss here on Human Potential. It's pretty simple. Thanksgiving was started by Explorers. They gave thanks to their fellow explorers and adventurers. They gave thanks to those who taunt them new skills and helped them survive another year of hardships and dream weaving. They were all explorers in a new world, or natives in a world that was originally theres, creating a more fruitful society for the betterment of man. Realizing their true human potential as members of a civilization. Going the extra mile, taking huge chances, leaving their world behind to create a new one. And through all their hardships, battles, questions.. they gave thanks.
I write all of this because it's a learning lesson. Before writing this piece, I was also stuck on the first Thanksgiving being that of what we know in PLymouth. A "peace-meal" between The Wampanoag and The Pilgrims. Just as the 14th and 15th century explorers lifted their roots for new beginnings, so to did my wife and I in the 21st century. We packed up all of our things and moved 2000 miles from home, just shy of the 3300 mile trek from London to Boston.
Since arriving here in Boulder, CO; I've had the adventurous and yet amazing task of meeting the locals and trying to get a lay of the land. I've had to learn how to survive here and grow accustomed to the many differences between where I'm from and my new home. I've shared meals with those who have lived here before me. I've learned the local history and have had no issue growing accustomed to the weather.
And so.. I give thanks to all of those back home who continue to support Sarah and I on our amazing Western Journey. We've only just begun and as we look back on our harvest for the year 2011, we give thanks to god and all others who haves helps us reap the rewards of our "planted seeds." We're hoping to plant a few more in the coming months to continue to foster growth in our fellow man.
Good tidings to you and yours on this Thanksgiving Day,