Origins of Thanksgiving

Origin of Thanksgiving.

As if to resist the bitterness and sadness of the failing year, the most genial and kindly of all our festivals occurs at the end of November. Its very name, “Thanksgiving,” betrays its pious origin — an origin unmixed with any prior traditions. The great Christian festival of Christmas stretches backward to yule logs and mistletoes, to Scandinavian and Briton heathenry; nor does it lose by the graceful, happy association. But Thanksgiving is purely Puritan.

In Elliott’s “New England History” you may read that in 1723, after the harvest, Gov. Broadstreet [year and name = typos?] sent out a company to shoot game to furnish a dainty feast of rejoicing after the labors of he colony. Having followed the directions of the governor, and the principal of the excellent Mrs. Glass, they cooked their game and invited Massasoit and some ninety other savages, and all fell to and devoured the feast, thanking God “for the good world and good things in it.” Think of that shivering band clustered on the bitter edge of the continent, with the future before them almost as dark as the forest behind them, many of them with such long lines of happy memories in Old England flashing across the sea into the gloom of their present position like gleams of ruddy firelight that stream far out of the cheerful chimney into the cool winter night — and think of the same festival now, when our governors and our president invite millions of people to return thanks to the great giver of harvests; and the millions of people obeying, sacrifice hecatombs of turkeys and pumpkins and pour out seas of cider and harmless wine.

It might be dangerous to stake one’s reputation upon the assertion that Thanksgiving is strictly a religious feast. It is a day of practical rejoicing in the good things of this world, and there may even be people whose mouths are fuller of turkey than their hearts of thanks. But every year the area of the feast enlarges. Every year there are more people who sit down to “groaning boards,” as the reporters happily express it, upon occasions of civic festivity.

Dear old Thanksgiving! Long and long may his hospitable board be spared. Long and long may he stand, benignant at his door, calling in the poor and weary, the blind and the lame. Rich in blessings and reverend in years, may good old Thanksgiving last with the continent, knitting closer the ties of family and friendship; its cheerfulness beaming like the smile of a patriarch; its charity burning like a central fire, warming all the year and lighting up every dark day of care and sorrow.

— Exchange.

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 25, 1886

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