Almost 400 years ago in September 1620, 102 immigrants on the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, Mass. Over the winter, almost half the colonists died of scurvy and exposure. The next spring, the Wampanoag people welcomed the Pilgrims. A Pawtuxet Native, Squanto, taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn, catch fish and tap maple trees. In November 1621, grateful for surviving the winter, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag shared a feast. They lived in peace for 50 years.
Holy Tom Turkey! Out of that first Thanksgiving our own holiday tradition has grown, spurred on by presidential proclamations (George Washington, 1789; Abraham Lincoln, 1863) designating Thursdays in November as national days of thanksgiving. It is unknown if the Wampanoag required the Pilgrims to apply for refugee status, but apparently they felt a band of scurvy-ridden English weren’t much of a threat.
Today we gather together, one big huge multicultural stew of immigrants, descendants of immigrants and Natives. We share the wealth of our harvest and hunting. We give thanks in our individual spiritual ways, and boy howdy do we eat. For those who have less, we try to make sure that on this day everyone goes home with a full belly.
It’s a gratitude born of a welcome by a people who could have just let those first visitors starve, but didn’t. Thank you Lord/God/Allah/Jehovah/Mother Nature, etc. Thank you, Squanto. Pass the cranberry sauce. You can have the drumstick, Pops. More mashed potatoes? Let’s eat!
What can be a better bet than that? But when you’ve cleared the table and done the dishes, there’s lots more to do, like these Best Bets:
BEST JOIN THE CROWD BET: Want to share Thanksgiving with neighbors? Don’t have a place to go? Local churches and bars have potluck-optional feasts. Check out the list in last week’s Homer News or in the Calendar, page 13.
BEST WARM UP BET: Hey, before you sit down to that feast, run a few miles so you’ll have a good appetite with the 5-K Sweating Gravy Turkey Trot from 10-11 a.m. Thanksgiving at Homer High School.
BEST BORG BET: OK, it’s not like Star Trek where an evil invader turns humans into bionic machines, but “Assimilation” is still the topic — and the title — of Jack Dalton’s play, showing at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Bunnell Street Arts Center. About the forced assimilation of Native Americans at boarding school, Dalton’s play takes a twist. In his version, it’s white people being assimilated.
BEST START THE SEASON BET: Local stores will have Black Friday sales, and it’s also Shop Local Saturday, so if you’re shopping for gifts this weekend, support your local businesses. The Pratt Museum also holds its annual Stocking Stuffer Party and Family Free Day from 1-4 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday from noon-3 p.m. is an open house with Santa Claus at NOMAR on Pioneer Avenue. Whew.
BEST ROUND AND ROUND BET: Want to start the holidays with a meditative moment? At 5:30 p.m. Saturday St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church holds a Labyrinth Meditation Walk. It’s followed by a sung Compline service.