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An American Thanksgiving

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We all know the story of the “First Thanksgiving” at the Plymouth Colony. The early settlers, whom we now call “Pilgrims”, set a holiday right after their first harvest (1621). It would be a celebration lasting several days and would include feasting, games, and praising God.  Because of their invaluable help, the Pilgrims invited Massasoit, Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag people, as well as others of his group to join them.

The foods at this Thanksgiving were not the turkey, dressing, yams, and cranberry sauce we look forward to today.  They had what they had harvested … corn and squash being foremost.  They had what they had hunted and caught … deer, lobster, rabbit, duck, and (yes) turkey.

Time passed and although they certainly celebrated the Harvest with feasting and prayers of thanks, Geauga’s settlers did not necessarily celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day we do. They, however, likely did the eating part of the celebration in the mid-afternoon as most of us do on this celebration. There would usually be more than one kind of meat, a “sweet” in addition to dessert, and few vegetables.  Indian Meal Pudding was a popular side dish … but one which took 10 to 13 hours to cook. Another favorite side dish was Apple Fritters. Cake was the usual dessert.

The first official Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued in 1777 by the Continental Congress. After the Revolution, several people wanted to have a yearly day of thanksgiving. Agreeing with this, George Washington, proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. Other people disagreed with the idea. However, in the first thirty years of the life of our Nation, there were six more Proclamations of Thanksgiving … with different days and good only for the year of the Proclamation.  After 1815 there were no more Thanksgiving Proclamations until Lincoln made two during the Civil War.  He it was who declared Thanksgiving Day should be the last Thursday in November and should be a Federal Holiday.  (In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date as the Fourth Thursday of November.)  Since Lincoln, every President has made an official Thanksgiving Proclamation on behalf of the nation.

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