The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 22, 2012

Remember to give thanks


DANVILLE — Today across America, statistics show 90 percent of us will eat turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving — with unofficial numbers even higher for those who will watch football as well.

Today’s holiday is much different than the first fall feast shared by the Plymouth colonists and their neighbors, the Wampanoag tribe in 1621. Yet the real reason for the day remains the same.

The Plymouth colonists spend 66 days at see in 1620 crossing the rough Atlantic Ocean in search of a land of their own where they could worship as they saw fit.

Their ship ended up far north of their original destination, but they decided to stay.

They lived on their ship during the first winter. Sickness took its toll, with only half of their original number still alive in spring of 1621.

As the weather warned, they began to explore the countryside and were surprised to be greeted in English by a member of the Abenaki tribe.

They soon met Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, who had been kidnapped years before and taken to England, where he learned to speak the language. He later escaped and returned to his homeland aboard another exploratory mission.

Squanto taught the Plymouth colonists how to survive in their new home and, most important, helped them live in peace with their neighbors, the Wampanoags.

The story of the first feast is familiar, with the colonists and Native Americans sitting down together for huge feast.

From that start, the tradition continued. Colonies — and later, states — celebrated a version of Thanksgiving on their own.

President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863, during the bloodiest days of the Civil War, establishing a day of thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.

Lincoln asked his fellow Americans to ask God “to commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strive.”

He also hoped the day would “heal the wounds of the nation.”

In the wake of this month’s rather rancorous election, the latter sentiment still applies.

Americans should be thankful for their prosperity, their safety compared to so many others on the planet and their freedom to select their leaders through ballots and not bullets.

We here at the Commercial-News also would like to add our thanks to our advertisers and our readers for helping make 2012 a successful year. We look forward to many more in the years ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.