PILGRIM’S PROGRESS?

Some thoughts on Thanksgiving by Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I have spent much of my time the past few months writing the history of our family.  My research has taken me to places that I never expected to go. For example, the Napa State Hospital for the Insane where our great-grandfather was housed in 1900.  But that aside, most of our relatives were fine, upstanding people. In fact, a few weeks ago I discovered that we are related to 5 of the seventeen families that came over on the Mayflower. 

I’ve been reading a lot about our relatives, the Pilgrims, and have been reminded of facts I’m sure I learned in school but had long forgotten.  The journey was 66 days long and quite perilous during the latter half of it.  When they landed in Plymouth in November of 1620 there was no reprieve from the cramped confines of the ship.  Most of the passengers had to live on board while the first housing structures were built. The quarters were small to begin with and were not enhanced by two months at sea with no bathing or washing of clothes.  In fact, one of the first things the men did when they landed was to cut down juniper trees to bring on board in an attempt to improve the odor.  Those close quarters and the brutal New England winters caused much illness and disease.  Half of the original passengers died that first winter.  When spring arrived, the remaining crew members eagerly set sail and returned to England.  But the Pilgrims stayed on in Plymouth and continued to build their village.  By the next year, in November of 1621, they celebrated their first bountiful harvest with the native population and that meal has come to symbolize Thanksgiving.

So armed with all of this new knowledge I decided to really celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  My first stop was Target where I went in search of some kitschy decorations – a wreath, a turkey candle, maybe even a Pilgrim hat.  No such luck.  Thanksgiving was relegated to an end post on one aisle.  I was lucky to find an accordion turkey and a paper tablecloth.  Apparently that is the extent to which Target wishes to celebrate the day.  It was the same scenario in store after store.  Somehow we have turned into a society that goes directly from Halloween (a money-making holiday) to Christmas (another money-making holiday).

I think the people who struggled so greatly to establish the first colony in this country deserve a bit more respect.  Would it really be so bad if we focused a bit more on gratitude and a little less on greed?  We could start with Congress and then move on to the Target merchandising department.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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