Showing posts with label Plymouth Colony. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plymouth Colony. Show all posts

Nov 27, 2010


It is hard to find the actual 'first thanksgiving' in the US. Of course Texas, never one to miss an opportunity, claims to be first with the story of the first Thanksgiving feast celebrated in 1598 in El Paso, Texas by Don Juan de Oñate – 22 years before the English colonial Thanksgiving.

By early March 1598, Oñate's expedition of 500 people, including soldiers, colonists, wives and children and 7,000 head of livestock, was ready to cross the treacherous Chihuahuan Desert. Almost from the beginning of the 50-day march, nature challenged the Spaniards. First, seven consecutive days of rain made travel miserable. Then the hardship was reversed, and the travelers suffered greatly from the dry weather. On one occasion, a chance rain shower saved the parched colonists.

Finally, for the last five days of the march before reaching the Rio Grande, the expedition ran out of both food and water, forcing the men, women and children to seek roots and other scarce desert vegetation to eat. Both animals and humans almost went mad with thirst before the party reached water. Two horses drank until their stomachs burst, and two others drowned in the river in their haste to consume as much water as possible.

The Rio Grande was the salvation of the expedition, however. After recuperating for 10 days, Oñate ordered a day of thanksgiving for the survival of the expedition. Included in the event was a feast, supplied with game by the Spaniards and with fish by the natives of the region. A mass was said by the Franciscan missionaries traveling with the expedition. And finally, Oñate read La Toma -- the taking -- declaring the land drained by the Great River to be the possession of King Philip II of Spain.

Some historians call this one of the truly important dates in the history of the continent, marking the beginning of Spanish colonization in the American Southwest.

There's no doubt that today's Thanksgiving tradition is New England born and bred. It's not a single tradition, however, but a combination of traditions, according to a researcher for Plimoth Plantation Inc., which operates a model 17th century village at Plymouth, Mass., who says today's celebration is a cross between a British harvest festival and a special day of religious thanksgiving, both originally observed by pilgrims in New England.

In 1621, just months after their arrival from England, residents of Plymouth celebrated a harvest festival, which was indistinguishable from those observed throughout Britain at the time. It was a secular event with feasting and games. The only religious observance was the saying of grace before the meal.

Two years later, the governor of Plymouth colony called for a special day of religious thanksgiving for the end of a drought that plagued the colony. This was an extra day of prayer and religious observance. Special days of religious thanksgiving were called throughout the colonial period.

Connecticut is given credit for initially adopting an annual day of general thanksgiving. The first for which a proclamation exists was called for Sept. 18, 1639, although some may have been held earlier. Another on record was held in 1644, and from 1649 onward, these special days of general thanksgiving were held annually.

Massachusetts Bay Colony began annual observances in 1660.

Several other states also claim the first thanksgiving. Puritans who arrived to establish Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 observed a special day of prayer that is often called the 'first Thanksgiving'. Even earlier in Florida, a small colony of French Huguenots living near present-day Jacksonville noted a special thanksgiving prayer. The colony soon was wiped out by the Spanish.

Maine stakes its claim to the first Thanksgiving on the basis of a service held by colonists on August 9, 1607, to give thanks for a safe voyage.

Virginians are convinced their ancestors celebrated the first Thanksgiving when Jamestown settlers in 1610 held a service of thanksgiving for their survival of a harsh winter.