We all know what we like about Thanksgiving. It gives us excuses to do things that we would not normally do on other days, without getting bickered at. For all those couch potatoes who sit down to watch the television all day, you have an excuse by watching the Macy’s parade in the morning and watching some football games later in the evening. I always loved watching my parents fight over watching the parade or watching the Detroit Lions lose another game. This gives weight watchers a chance to stuff their mouths with just about anything that’s on the table without being called a pig. How much more American can you get, when the average of four pounds is gained every year after the family feast? At the center of the table is the representation of the whole meaning of Thanksgiving, the turkey. You could call your distant relatives to come down and visit you on any other random day and you would get, “Sorry, I’m a little busy this month. Maybe next time?” They would never explain when the next time would ever occur. But when you call them to come over because you’re cooking a turkey, they will be at your front door with their bibs ready, tucked in their shirt collars. You cannot have a Thanksgiving feast without the main event. But do most people even know how the turkey came to be the main course of this holiday?

The story of Thanksgiving starts with a group of Pilgrims who started their journey from Plymouth, England to search and find what was hoped to be the “New World.” They set sail on a small ship named The Mayflower on September 6, 1620. Now, this ship was filled with men, women, and children other than the sailors themselves. So you can imagine that it wasn’t the most comfortable ride. Aboard were passengers comprised of separatists who called themselves “saints” and other separatists called “strangers.”

Land was sighted 66 days later in November. A meeting was arranged to work out an agreement or truce among the passengers, which is now called the Mayflower Compact. The agreement guaranteed equality among everyone who was on the ship. They were then recognized as Pilgrims, and they elected John Carver as their first governor.

Although they sought land near the Cape Cod area, they did not stop there. Captain John Smith stopped the ship at Plymouth, Massachusetts, named after the port city, in 1614. Plymouth offered an excellent harbor and plenty of resources, and the native Indians were also non-hostile. Unfortunately, they did not prepare for the winter to arrive, as a lot of the crops that were planted were destroyed and many Pilgrims became sick from the cold, harsh weather.

Somehow they were saved by the local Native Americans who befriended them and helped them with food. The natives then taught the settlers the technique to cultivate corn and grow native vegetables and store them for hard days such as the winter. By the next winter, they had raised enough crops to keep them alive. They knew they had defeated the odds, so there was cause to celebrate.

For the celebration, they brought together a mixture of ingredients from the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. There was corn, barley, pumpkins, peas, deer, and fish. There was not a lot of food to share with everyone, so the Native Americans had an idea. They had a lot of turkeys just lying around that they had not eaten yet, and they decided to add turkey to the meal.

However, in the third year of celebration, the crops were horrible. There was not enough rain to grow the crops; there would be no feast. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford ordered that they pray for the rain to come in time for the feast, and so it did a few days later. To celebrate, November 29th of that year was proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving. This date is believed to be the first Thanksgiving Day.

It doesn’t matter if you have to sit next to your crazy grandfather who tells the weirdest stories at the table. It doesn’t matter if you got the short end of the turkey deal because your father got to it first. It doesn’t matter when the Lions or the Cowboys are playing. Nor does it matter if you only have a can of peas to share with a family of five. What does matter though, in true reality, is family and sharing. I know it sounds a lot like Christmas, but that can wait. This is a time to celebrate one of America’s oldest holidays. Thanksgiving is a time to be with your family and not care that the next day is the first day of Christmas shopping. Because this day is the day for the turkey. So let us give our thanks and respect for the turkey, for it is the symbol of Thanksgiving and the reason why the family comes together for the biggest feast of the year. Here’s to you, O mighty turkey.

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