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History of Thanksgiving

November 27, 2010

The Thanksgiving holiday is important to me. First, it begins the Christmas holiday season (which means I can begin listening to Christmas music without feeling awkward). Second, it is an annual reminder to pause and give thanks for the people and where I am in my life. Lastly, I am able to herald my Virginia heritage and history (and remind New Englanders that they are not all that special).

On December 4, 1619, 38 men arrived at the land what is now the Berkeley Plantation, 20 miles upstream from Jamestown on the James River. Upon arriving at this location the men, led by Captain John Woodlief, are said to have kneeled and offered prayers for their safe travel and exploration. The charter that these men had Crown authority to explore under required that they establish a day of thanksgiving (as quoted).

Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.

The Jamestown settlement was established in 1607 had been through numerous cycles of peace and relative prosperity to famine and near annihilation. If memory serves me correctly, there was an annual Day of Thanksgiving decreed by one of the Jamestown governors or council prior to the 1619 date, but I have been unable to find any such reference after a brief internet research endeavor.

Note: There is some research that has a “Thanksgiving” holiday predated to the late 1500’s in Florida by Spanish explorers, but I will continue to contend that the Berkeley/Jamestown Thanksgiving is the first as the Jamestown settlement along with the Plymouth settlement was the definitive spark and impetus that began the birth of the United States.

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