CURRENT ISSUE:  August 2023

Toledo Irish: Thanksgiving

Toledo Irish: Thanksgiving    
By: Molly McHugh

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

In the United States, November is defined by one thing: Thanksgiving! Many people describe Thanksgiving as their favorite holiday. It’s the one day out of the year that calories don’t count, the score of your favorite football rivalry is the only thing that matters, and the one adjective everyone can live by is “lazy.”

Well, maybe not to all of those out there slaving over the stove making the turkey (clearly that is not me yet), but you get the drift! It’s a holiday in every sense of the word. With all the “nothingness” going on that day, it’s not always top of mind to take a moment, step back, and remember why we are celebrating that special day.

The Story of Thanksgiving
Of course, everyone knows the story of Thanksgiving, right? The Mayflower ship left Plymouth, England, in September 1620, and landed a couple months later at what is now called Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The 102 Pilgrims on board arrived encouraged by their hopes and dreams of living freely in the new world.

However, the first winter was not all rainbows and butterflies; it was rather brutal. It’s estimated that only half of the Mayflower passengers that made the transatlantic journey survived until Spring.

As the surviving Pilgrims began to move on shore and establish their new community, Native American, Squanto, showed up and taught the settlers how to cultivate corn and where and how to fish and plant seeds for food. Squanto further forged a relationship between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, the local Indian tribe.

With the help and guidance of the Wampanoag, the Pilgrims were successful in their first harvest. In honor of that feat, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited the Wampanoag tribe to join. This three-day celebration became known as the first Thanksgiving.

But was it really the first Thanksgiving? More than likely, it was, but we probably won’t ever know the exact details of the first Thanksgiving for sure.

Were the Irish Behind Thanksgiving
Other theories about the first Thanksgiving exist as well. Specifically, the theory that the Irish were really behind the beginning of this holiday? Maybe!

A decade after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, they were in dire need of help after several challenging growing seasons. Luckily, a Dublin merchant sent a ship of “provisions” or goods to Massachusetts in the New World. Apparently, the merchant’s daughter was married to one of the Pilgrims.

He sent the ship called “The Lyon,” which arrived in Plymouth Rock on February 15, 1631. Coincidentally, February 20,1631, was already set aside as a day of fasting and prayer for the Pilgrims. However, the timely arrival of “The Lyon” made that day a day of Thanksgiving instead.

Consequently, several historians say that this day was the official start of Thanksgiving as we know it today. This theory does sound very plausible, too; and it certainly is great to give credit to the Irish for the creation of our first Thanksgiving!

The date of Thanksgiving has changed throughout history; however, it was President Lincoln who, in 1863, proclaimed that Thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November. That proclamation has, of course, endured throughout the decades. 

While we may never know the exact details of the very first Thanksgiving, we know it’s rooted in a day of gratitude, and that we should never forget the courage and fortitude our forefathers exhibited in the early days of America.

Thanksgiving Funny
By the way, wondering what you should wear to Thanksgiving dinner? A har-vest of course! *Molly McHugh is a Toledo native and holds her MSc in Strategy, Innovation and People Management from National University of Ireland, Galway. Molly can be reached at mo************@gm***.com

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