A Happy Thanksgiving?
By Karen Timmons
John Calvin had peptic ulcers and so decided to reform the Reformation. He didn’t have any fun and no one else would, either. He found Queen Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church too much like the Catholic Church. He disapproved of fine robes, music, and dancing. Puritans, almost all Calvinists, wanted to return to their idea of a pure life on earth, without singing, dancing, nice clothes and fun. Queen Elizabeth, needing to stabilize her rule, including the Episcopal Church, told the Puritans to shape up or ship out. They were a political nuisance and fostered ideas of civil war. So they went to Holland where a lot of Calvinists lived. They found these folk also too worldly. Just look at Amsterdam today.
So 102 came to the New World, and landed at Plymouth, MA, at Plymouth Rock, which is now Plymouth Pebble. Not all were Puritans, who by now called themselves “Saints” and the others “Others.” These folk formulated the Mayflower Compact, called themselves Pilgrims, and wrote the first law here. They decided to help each other survive. Of course, landing in mid-winter, after a 66 day sea crossing, ½ died that first year—from disease and starvation.
The Wampanoag tribe, led by Chief Massassoit, helped the remaining Pilgrims survive, teaching them to plant corn, beans, and other crops. The Wampanoag were used to giving thanks for nature’s bounty. They thanked the spirits for the game they killed for food, much as I thank the millions of plastic wrapped turkeys for giving their lives for us at Thanksgiving. They thanked the Creator, Kiehtan, who lives above, for good harvests. Massassoit convinced the Pilgrims, who were to prove both pills and grim, to have a harvest festival.
The first Thanksgiving was held at the end of October, 1621. Ninety Wampanoag attended and massacres of both people didn’t happen until 1647.
Today there are 700 Wampanoag. On Thanksgiving Day, 1970, 200 tribe members gathered at Massassoit’s monument in Plymouth to protest the European conquest. The “Day of Mourning” protest has been held every Thankisgiving since. These folk are currently planning a casino.
For 40 years Josepha Hale of Boston, a female editor and magazine owner, petitioned various politicians for 40 years to make a special national holiday to give thanks. Finally, Abraham Lincoln, decided it was a good idea. On October 3, 1863, he gave the Proclamation of Thanksgiving, probably for the benefit of Union Troops. I give you here part of it because it is so poignant, given the stresses of war and the natural outcome of the Industrial Revolution. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come. . .Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased. . .and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend…they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds on the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
I wonder what Abe would think of our beautiful for spacious blackened skies, etc. etc. etc. By extension of his Industrial Revolution, everything is still business as usual.The spiritual descendants of the Puritans are here. They didn’t want a Thanksgiving holiday because it was frivolous and Pagan. During the mid 1800’s they didn’t want a Christmas Holiday for the same reason. They don’t celebrate Halloween either. They don’t want abortion. They don’t want women to have the hard-fought freedoms we’ve won. The freedom to live as sovereign individuals answering only to our own personal Great Whatever. They don’t recognize that homosexuality exists in the human gene pool and has sometimes been the foundation of some societies, such as Classical Greece, which was fervently patriarchal, much as the Puritans themselves.
How horrible that they are so frightened, so controlling. Life is meant for singing and dancing and joy. It is meant for learning our own position to the Great Whatever. Life is meant for mistakes and overcoming error. If it exists, it also exists in the Great Whatever. Enjoy!