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Thanksgiving: It’s much more than “Turkey Day”

November 12, 2018

“Turkey day,” as it’s sometimes called, should be more than just a feast -- more than roasting a bird and consuming the trimmings -- followed by a football game or just relaxing with family and friends.

Too often we forget about the history of this special day, so it’s a good idea to review briefly the “whats” and “whys” of Thanksgiving Day.

Many of us recall our teachers in elementary school helping us make cut-outs and telling us stories of the people who first emigrated from England and settled in America. It was the year 1620 when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. The group we know as Pilgrims called themselves “Saints.” They had spent 65 grueling days crossing the mighty Atlantic Ocean, suffering dreadful cold and sickness. Some died, enduring all to escape religious persecution. They were welcomed by the native people who did much to help them settle into their bleak, new surroundings.

If we remember our history correctly, it was Squanto, of the Patuxet tribe, who acted as a guide and interpreter for the newest Americans. He also taught them how to plant corn and tap trees for maple syrup. Squanto had learned fluent English in his youth from an early explorer and others.

In return for his kindness, Governor William Bradford of the Pilgrim settlement invited Squanto, Chief Massasoit, and some 90 of their new Indian friends, as Native Americans were called at the time, to a harvest feast prior to the harsh winter that less than 50 of the settlers survived. Likely the colonists could not have survived at all without the help of those who knew how to live through the bitterly cold conditions of New England winters.

The settlers gave thanks on that November day for their survival, for freedom and the privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

It wasn’t until over two hundred years later that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of each year as an official national holiday honoring those early Pilgrims and their native friends who gave thanks on that first Thanksgiving.

Just think: Had it not been for Squanto and members of the Patuxet tribe of 1620, there might not be a Thanksgiving Day to remind us to give thanks for all our many blessings on a day set aside each year to do just that.

Dean & Nancy Hoch are local public affairs representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. dean.nancy@gmail.com.

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