The quiet, reflective autumn day we call Thanksgiving is one of the most unique American holidays, finding roots long ago when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared a harvest feast in 1621.
Many more such celebrations were held throughout the colonies and states, individually, until 1863, during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
The early reasons for Thanksgiving are not much different than today. Colonists faced many hardships in raising and gathering enough food to have through the winter months.
Native Americans faced similar problems, but their knowledge and experience in surviving the seasons of North America were valuable to those were new to the land.
Accounts of the first Thanksgiving tell that colonists and Native Americans sat together and feasted, played games — a day of fellowship and gratitude for life and a bountiful harvest. Descriptions of that gathering describe tables full of vegetables, fish and turkeys, similar to today.
We also know from historical accounts that Thanksgiving was a community gathering of families and individuals, and a time of sharing.
In Cullman, that spirit of thanks and gatherings is alive and well.
The Grover Reeves Thanksgiving Day Meal at St. John’s Evangelical Protestant brings together hundreds of people for food and friendship.
The City of Good Hope offers a community meal the day before the holiday, while the Cullman Elks Lodge offers another event that raises money to provide local children with Christmas gifts.
Goodwill and caring are plentiful across Cullman County, not just during the holidays, but also throughout the year.
Looking back to historical descriptions of the first Thanksgiving, the meaning of that day was simple, a time of appreciating neighbors and giving thanks for blessings.
Thanksgiving’s origin also carries a valuable lesson of distinctly different cultures coming together in peace, finding common ground through food, conversation and sharing.
People are uniquely social and possess the ability to learn from each other without prejudice.
The need to survive, to have ample supplies of food, and adequate shelter brings people together, builds familiarity and ultimately, peace.
In a society as diverse as the United States, differences sometimes lead to conflicts. But Thanksgiving stands as a lasting testament to tolerance.
We hope the foundation of Thanksgiving lives every day among all Americans.
And we wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving Day.