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June 4, 2023

Thanksgiving’s Bounty

Since Thanksgiving Day 1621, 401 years later there is much for which to be thankful. When sitting down this Thanksgiving, one should take a moment and imagine being by oneself. Then one can imagine the time and effort required to create each thing one uses, eats and enjoys on a single day. 

It’s a time to be thankful, indeed, for all those creating use or beauty that is taken for granted. Oh, what a joy to be thankful.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely North American holiday, starting with the Pilgrims’ Mayflower coming to a New World to create a new life. Self-reliant by necessity, the passengers drafted the Mayflower Compact, a social contract of consensus decision-making, governing creation of a new settlement. 

This was a unique document of self-reliant authority and equality, with rights given to people, not king. This contract laid the foundations of America’s democracy, maturing 200 years later into Massachusetts’ constitution, which pre-dates and served as a model for the U.S. Constitution. 

Fun facts: The Pilgrims’ Mayflower was a 106’ long, 25’ wide, four-masted square rigger. It carried 102 passengers, 25 crew, animals and provisions. It set sail in July. It turned back twice because its inaptly named companion ship, Speedwell, leaked. 

Shoving off in September, sailing 66 days at sea, one person died, one person was born (Oceanus Hopkins), and one person went overboard and was rescued. Approximately 50 passengers were Pilgrims and 50 were “Strangers.” Strangers were persons with “skills,” accompanying Pilgrims as contracted help. 

Because of this mix and the Mayflower straying off-course, causing a breach of contract resulting in a near mutiny of Strangers, Strangers and Pilgrims drafted and all signed the “Mayflower Compact,” pledging a civil and equal society, before disembarking to start a settlement. Rowing ashore by day, returning to ship at night, lodgings were built. 

In March, the Mayflower crew returned to England. Approximately 50 people died that first winter. Learning from Native Americans, the settlers had a harvest and celebrated Thanksgiving in 1621 with approximately 90 Wampanoags and Massasoits over a three-day feast. 

Thanksgiving was made a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.


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