A couple of years ago I organised a proper American Thanksgiving in the Stoke Abbot village hall. Everyone pitched in, bringing turkeys. I made some of the traditional trimmings and quite a few pumpkin pies and a wonderful evening was had by all. But as the British think Thanksgiving is only about Americans stuffing their faces, I felt it my duty to explain that Thanksgiving is an almost sacred holiday, and is so much more than food. So I wrote and recited this poem...
Thanksgiving Poem by J Stover
Some English folk didn’t like the Church, they decided to break away.
The church was too fancy, with cathedrals and music, and they wanted a church rather grey.
These Separatists tried Holland first and stayed there for a while,
But after hearing about the glorious New World, into the Mayflower they piled.
On the 6th of September 1620, one hundred two Pilgrims set sail,
For sixty six days they endured awful conditions, arriving quite sickly and pale.
The Pilgrims made landfall near Cape Cod Massachusetts on a cold November day,
They together signed the Mayflower Compact, letting democracy lead the way.
Now William Bradford, one of these Pilgrims, sounded not all that well pleased.
“A hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild men and wild beasts”.
A very harsh winter followed and they struggled to survive,
The settlement was now called Plymouth and 46 Pilgrims died.
Samoset, a native Indian came to visit in the following spring.
He was sent by his chief, Massasoit and two arrows he did bring.
One arrow was pointed, the other blunt,
Samoset spoke some English so he didn’t have to grunt.
Pilgrim John Carver took the blunted arrow of peace and signed a treaty
They would come to each other’s defence, help when the other was needy.
Indian, Squanto, stayed on in Plymouth, to keep an eye on them for his chief,
Squanto taught them many things, much to the Pilgrim’s relief.
He showed them how to plant maize, squash and beans and where and how to catch fish.
Squanto, they felt, was sent by God, he was more than they could have wished.
By the end of summer 1621, with Squanto’s help the colony was booming,
Houses were built, the harvest was in, plenty for the winter now looming.
William Bradford had a thought, it was time to give thanks to God.
With the bountiful harvest the Indians came to that first Thanksgiving in Cape Cod.
There was venison, wild turkey, ducks and geese, corn pudding all quite yummy nosh.
But the Pilgrims didn’t have any sugar, so there was no cranberry sauce.
In the decades that followed, the settlements grew and grew.
The colonists continued to give their thanks, as all good Christians do.
The War of Independence was won, the Brits had lost this time,
And George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.
As America expanded across the continent, the tradition moved west from the east,
Abraham Lincoln declared an annual holiday 242 years after the first Pilgrim feast.
Thanksgiving means hope and patriotism and counting our great nation’s blessings,
It means family and friends and eating too much, it means turkey with all the dressing.
And finally it is to England that we must give our thanks,
Those Pilgrims up and left the place, they thought it kind of stank.
If King and Church had not been cruel and treated them so rotten,
They’d not have crossed to the great New World and Thanksgiving we’d not have gotten.
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Jo Stover has daily adventures on her small farm, together with her Highland cattle and Portland sheep, bees, a few hens, dogs, and some two-legged family and friends.