It doesn’t really matter much that the US culture mistakenly venerates a celebration by early settlers of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts as the first thanksgiving. Why? Well, the party is essentially a local variation on harvest celebrations that probably occurred before folks started recording their parties. But, just for the record, in North America, the pilgrims were not, pilgrim, the first to celebrate a day of thanksgiving. A group of immigrants who populated a settlement called Berkeley Hundred along the James River in Virginia were required by their charter from the king of England to celebrate a day of thanksgiving annually, beginning in 1619.
The estate was a part of Berkeley Hundred, a grant made to Sir George Yeardley, Richard Berkeley, and others in 1610. The proprietors instructed the settlers of the ‘Town and Hundred’ that ‘the day of our ships arrival . . . shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of Thanksgiving! The Margaret landed her passengers at Berkeley, December 4, 1619-a year and 17 days before the Pilgrims arrived to establish their Thanksgiving Day.
So, my let me venerate a little history about my neighborhood. Whee. O.K. Done with that.
Harvest ceremonies probably have among the longest histories of human celebrations. Mayhaps there were fertility celebrations before that. And, surely, hunt celebrations came pretty early. I need the help of someone who knows anthropology to identify the first classes of celebrations. Please feel free to chip in with a comment.
There probably were celebrations of the harvest among Native Americans well before the arrival of Europeans. There are, for sure, celebrations about if the harvest in Africa, Asia, and Europe (see links). So, what’s to be chauvinistic about? I dunno. I take back my veneration….
Where ever it started, it’s a good reason for a party. Cheers.
- The search that’s illustrated in the image above.
- Wikipedia entries on harvest celebrations and on thanksgiving;
- An earlier post about James Horn’s history of the early settlement of Virginia from this blog–wonderful book.