By David Kennard
Is it just me or does anyone else believe that Thanksgiving gets no respect?
I love Christmas and all, but it seems Thanksgiving, you know, the holiday that has both the words “Thanks” and “Giving,” is overshadowed by Christmas. Sure, there is giving that goes on during Christmas, but let’s give Thanksgiving the respect it deserves.
Thanksgiving elicits images of pilgrims, Plymouth Rock and of course turkey, which as history tells us was close to beating out the bald eagle as our national emblem. My guess is that somebody very wise determined that we don’t want to celebrate our nation’s history by eating its national emblem.
I love turkey.
I love my children, too, but now that they are mostly out of the house, it’s means more turkey for me. I had to quickly correct my wife last week when she suggested we get a smaller turkey this year. Can you even believe that?
And, not to discount the turkey, but it’s really the stuffing that makes the turkey, isn’t it? Over the last 30 years of Thanksgiving meals we’ve shared together, we’ve tried several different stuffings.
The best we’ve found is a sauerkraut based stuffing with brown sugar, raisins, bread and a few other secret ingredients.
And don’t get me started on cream cheese mashed potatoes.
Food is such a huge part of Thanksgiving because it was the centerpiece of the first Thanksgiving celebrated in November 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians a few miles up the coast in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.
A couple of those first arrivals are my ancestors. I learned this many years ago as a young boy when my mother laid out the family genealogy on the kitchen table. Years of her research was written up in finely printed names on a family tree-type chart.
There were many dead end lines, many of which we have since filled in, but I distinctly remember following her finger as she showed me my name and her name and my father’s name and then on back through the generations.
Most of it meant nothing to me; there were lots of Johns and Roberts and even a David. When she got to the early 1700s it started getting interesting again. The stories of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims seeking religious freedom from a tyrannical king was stuff I knew from school.
Some of the names in the history books were the same as those written on the pages taped together with Scotch tape now spread before me on our kitchen table.
The questions of a young boy to his mother centered on what it was like to live with Indians, and how did my ancestors survive on the ship, and what was it like in England, and why did they leave?
Those are all complicated answers that have been romanticized in third-grade readers. I now have a better understanding of those simple questions.
Religious persecution and the development of governments are things that make headlines even in the modern era. It takes only a little imagination to understand what our earliest American ancestors endured to establish the fledgling colony that gave birth to the greatest nation in the world.
Their search for freedom is a concept that we understand as we learn more about our American heritage. And there is little doubt that their first fall celebration meant a great deal.
Now 396 years later we get to celebrate that first Thanksgiving -- with turkey.
David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at email@example.com or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.