Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sharing the harvest

The first Thanksgiving in what is now the United States was held in the Virginia Colony on December 4, 1619 near the current site of Berkeley Plantation, although most Americans associate the holiday with a meal held in 1621 by the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Even the Pilgrams did not consider that feast, provided by the Wampanoag, a Thanksgiving. Their first true harvest Thanksgiving would come with the end of a drought in the summer of 1623 and was not a feast, but a day of prayer.

The first Thanksgiving in North America was celebrated by English explorer, Martin Frobisher and his crew as they searched for a Northwest Passage. In 1578 Frobisher held a celebration somewhere in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for having survived the long journey. The Canadian celebration has not always been an annual celebration of the harvest, as Thanksgiving has been used to celebrate long journeys, the end of the Seven Years War, and even recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness. In 1957 Canada officially proclaimed the 2nd Monday in October as “A Day of General Thanksgiving… for the bountiful harvest”.

Traditions of giving thanks for the year’s harvest are universal. Thanksgiving has been officially observed in the United States every year since 1863. In the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November be set aside for Thanksgiving. Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the celebration to the next-to-last Thursday during the Great Depression (1939) to allow merchants an extra week of sales before Christmas.

We should all be thoughtful of those less fortunate, especially at this time of year. Thanksgiving has been a time of charity since the Wampanoag shared their bounty with the Pilgrams. According to the latest statistics (USDA/ERS, Household Food Security in the United States: 2004), an estimated 38 million Americans, or 12%, are food insecure, meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. America’s Second Harvest reports (Hunger in America 2006) that “more than one-third (35%) of client households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage.”

Fiddlin' John Carson - Be Kind To A Man When He's Down.mp3

Blind Alfred Reed - Always Lift Him Up And Never Knock Him Down.mp3

Learn more about how to end hunger.


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