There were eels aplenty, that year.
Swans too, and lobsters, geese and mussels, beetroot and barley, clams and cod.
It was 1621, the first such celebration held at the Plymouth Plantation, a sumptuous feast to commemorate a successful harvest, the native population and Pilgrims alike, coming together to give thanks.
The menu might have changed somewhat during four subsequent centuries, but the underlying sentiment endures.
Thanksgiving and food have always gone together, hand in glove, but the eating is not the important part here.
Bearing that in mind, here in Saunderstown, a phrase has been coined in recent times.
That phrase – “it’s about connection……not cooking” – highlights what, for us at least, this – the most special of all the holidays – stands for.
Harmony, tranquillity, peace and union.
These could be our words, crafted here in our studio, alongside our OMs.
That they’re not – that they’re Abraham Lincoln’s, extracted from his 1863 Proclamation, declaring a national Thanksgiving Day – supports our position.
Elsewhere in his historic Proclamation, President Lincoln called upon his countrymen everywhere to celebrate Thanksgiving ‘…with one heart and one voice’.
It strikes us that he might have used different words, employing, perhaps, a phrase heard often here at OM HQ.
Because analyse it for a moment and you might conclude that President Lincoln is making a suggestion.
That we are all connected.
This is our belief, because to us, Thanksgiving is connection, one that echoes down the ages.
From the Pilgrims in 1621 to the Continental Congress, in 1777, that declared ‘…that at one time and with one voice, the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts.’
From President Lincoln to President Obama, who earlier this week, in his own Proclamation, urged us to ‘…pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.’
It is one heart and it is one voice.
It’s little wonder it appeals to us so much.
Thanksgiving is our favourite holiday, bar none, poignant for reasons both personal and collective.
It’s about great food, for sure, but more than that, it’s friends and it’s family, no presents to give but love, no stress to shoulder as a result.
It’s about recognizing all the great things in our lives and being thankful for them.
Thankful for our nearest and dearest.
Thankful for our home.
Thankful for freedom and opportunities.
Thankful for our OMs.
It’s a time to count our blessings as individuals and a time to consider the collective blessing of being able to call the United States our home and all that that means.
In these difficult days – with 14 million of us jobless, with hundreds of thousands of our brave servicemen and women stationed in dangerous places overseas, with our economic growth having ground to a standstill – it offers a well-timed tonic, a reminder that we are all in it together and that, deep down, we all cherish the same things.
Equality, liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness.
Because boil it down and that’s what we’re all here for, after all.
Some of us are more fortunate than others, it’s true, but Thanksgiving is a time for putting differences aside, for reaching out and for coming together.
Take, for example, Pastor Willie Brewer, who is planning to provide a special Thanksgiving meal, for those who have nowhere else to go, at Water Avenue Baptist Church in Selma, AL.
Pastor Brewer, it seems, is a man after our own hearts, describing his commendable effort as ‘Making a difference, one dinner at a time’.
It is a scene that is being played out all over the United States.
In Dearborn Heights, MI, where the theme is ‘Fellowship and community’.
In Lubbock, TX, where, a little earlier this week, Debbie Blancas ate, gave thanks and made the kind of connections that Thanksgiving is all about.
“It’s good,” she said, “because a lot of people don’t help each other.”
In Long Neck, MD, more than 350 are expected to sit down for a dinner that those volunteering feel honored just to be serving.
“Thanksgiving brings out the absolute best in people,” said Vonda Joseph, one of the event’s organizers. “Even after all these years, it still amazes me that people hug and and thank me for letting them help.”
Such people are serving more than just turkey, they’re dishing up hope for those who, otherwise, might have precious little to give thanks for.
These are the people that those of us who are not doing this kind of thing this holiday ought to be showing our gratitude for.
The challenge, of course, is to make Thanksgiving not just a single day, but a way of life, because reaching out, showing gratitude and making connections ought to be a year-round pastime, a challenge that we here in Saunderstown – through our work, through our lives and through our OMs – are striving to realize.
To quote another former President, President Kennedy, this time, ‘….as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.’
It’s a tall order, but it’s one that we’ll be thinking hard about this Thanksgiving as we join countless millions across the United States….
Joining them in showing our gratitude, joining them in giving our thanks.
Like the Pilgrims and Plymouth’s native population.
Like Presidents Kennedy, Lincoln and Obama.
Like Vonda Joseph and Debbie Blancas.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
We are all connected.