As we worked on this issue, I couldn’t help but think about the first Thanksgiving, recounted from an eyewitness report written in December 1621 by Edward Winslow.
What we know from Winslow’s report, which was a letter to his friend, is the historic event didn’t happen on the fourth Thursday in November. It took place over three days sometime between late September and mid-November in 1621 and was considered a harvest celebration.
We also know it didn’t remotely resemble our day of feasting on pumpkin pie, buttery yeast rolls and a beautifully carved turkey, though there .
But this year, we might stop to reflect more on the similarities between Thanksgiving 2020 and the 1621 gathering.
Just more than 50 colonists are believed to have attended, including 22 men, four married women — among them Winslow’s wife — and more than 25 children and teenagers, according to historians. These were the lucky ones who had made it through a rough entry into the New World, including a harsh winter during which an epidemic swept through the colony, felling nearly half the original group, according to the History Channel.
About 78 percent of the women who had arrived on the Mayflower died during the first winter.
“For the English, [the first Thanksgiving] was also celebrating the fact they had survived their first year here in New England,” Tom Begley, executive liaison for administration, research and special projects at Plimoth Plantation, told the History Channel.
Plimoth is an old-fashioned spelling used by Gov. William Bradford in his history of the colony.
The Plymouth colonists likely were outnumbered more than 2-to-1 at the event by their Native American guests.
Although the event wasn’t called Thanksgiving, the sentiment certainly was there, according to historians.
“For the English, before and after every meal there was a prayer of thanksgiving,” Begley said. “For something on this scale, celebrating a successful harvest, there definitely would have been moments of giving thanks to their God.”
For the Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving, giving thanks was a daily part of life.
“We as native people [traditionally] have thanksgivings as a daily, ongoing thing,” Linda Coombs, the former associate director of the Wampanoag program at Plimoth Plantation, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Every time anybody went hunting or fishing or picked a plant, they would offer a prayer or acknowledgment.”
Such sentiments are shared by hunters in this issue, who are thankful for the harvest, values and lessons they get from the sport, as reported by Coast Monthly correspondent Capt. Nate Skinner.
It’s been a rough year. But, as you’ll learn in our Shorelines feature, readers still have much to be thankful for living on the upper Texas coast.
The pandemic might alter Thanksgiving feasts, gatherings and family traditions. But we still can reflect on Winslow’s words:
“And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”