I am a New Englander so imagine my shock when I recently read that Florida lays claim to the first Thanksgiving, which occurred on September 8, 1565 between Pedro Menendez de Aviiles and the Eastern Timucua, who long lived on the land surrounding the St. Johns River. Apparently they celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving. This just may be considered some form of blasphemy in New England. If it is true, what do I do with the first Thanksgiving story that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony? To make matters more confusing I read that the first Thanksgiving is also claimed by Virginia and Texas, though those feasts were long after that of Florida.
Since 1863 when America claimed her national feast day we have been celebrating Thanksgiving Day by recounting the first Thanksgiving as a time of peace, prosperity, communion, and a grand gesture to God giving Him thanks and praise for a good harvest … IN MASSACHUSETTS. I don’t believe that story and understand the relationship between colonists and the Wampanoag, also called Massasoit, the Native American tribe was anything but peaceful and celebratory. The truth is that white settlers unleashed genocide, massacring an indigenous people.
I’m always asked to let go of those facts around Thanksgiving. I do. Not because I’ve changed my mind, but because Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating family, embracing gratitude, and to consider overindulgence -- not claiming a certified story of the first Thanksgiving or glossing over challenging history. Regardless of one’s views on the first Thanksgiving it is a time for gratitude, if for no other reason than that we have life that is to be celebrated and embraced. Each of us is home and have family in our Congregation. For that I am grateful.
Blessings, Rev. CJ