Wednesday, November 22, 2006
It has been nearly four centuries since the Pilgrims, having survived tremendous hardships during their first winter in America, held a feast with the Indians, who taught the colonists how to raise crops and hunt game in this new land.
That the Pilgrims would feast for three days with their new neighbors is not surprising. Celebrating the harvest with a fall feast is a tradition dating back thousands of years in European history. But out of that meal in 1621, the American tradition of Thanksgiving was born.
Some 150 years later, President George Washington proclaimed Nov. 26, 1789, as a day for all Americans to unite and give thanks to God for their good fortune. Washington called for another Thanksgiving Day in 1795.
But Thanksgiving was not recognized as an annual event until, at the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation creating Thanksgiving Day in 1863.
The idea behind Thanksgiving has always been to do just that - to take time to give thanks for the blessings we have in our lives. For the Pilgrims, it was a time to thank God for the harvest, for the end of drought and for their survival of another winter.
For Washington, it was the opportunity to give thanks for freedom, and for Lincoln, it was the opportunity to remind Americans that even in the midst of perhaps the nation's darkest hour, they had cause to be thankful.
"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies," Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation begins. "To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God."
In the 141 years since, the tradition of Thanksgiving has become more secular. And, as the influence of agriculture has waned, no longer do we necessarily associate Thanksgiving with the fall harvest.
But allegorically, the past year's harvest in Routt County has been nothing short of bountiful. We have been blessed with a healthy, growing and prosperous economy. All around us - downtown, at the mountain, in Hayden and at Yampa Valley Regional Airport - are signs of progress. Unemployment is low; sales tax receipts are high. The real estate market is good.
We truly have much to celebrate. But in addition to simply giving thanks this holiday, we would encourage those who can to consider ways to give back as well. Thursday's Community Thanksgiving Dinner provides a great outlet for this through the donation and preparation of food or assistance with service or clean-up. There are, of course, countless other causes to which we can give our time, our money or both.
However you choose to celebrate the day, we wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.