The main historical storyline we celebrate is that of the pilgrims who came to Plymouth in search of religious liberty. Different factions of Christians were fighting each other in Europe at that time, and many people of new conservative beliefs sought refuge to live their faith in the ways their personal reading of the bible told them they should.
Many of these groups emigrated to the east coast of the United States, and formed one of several nuclei that would eventually lead to the founding of the first nation ever built from the ground up on Christian principles of liberty, equality, and faith.
We honor and remember those people, and why they came here - looking at the history as we have received it, rather than the new revisionist versions. To that, we can also expand our knowledge to learn about other thanksgiving feasts that were held during these early days.
Thanksgiving is called a secular holiday, but that does not mean God is not involved. The very word "Thanksgiving" means "Praying to God in Thanks". The very word "holiday" means " Holy Day". The reason it is called "secular" is because it was not a holiday mandated by a church or celebrating a specifically religious event. But it was and is no less a Holy Day of giving thanks to God.
The practice of offering a feasting day of Thanksgiving to God upon the arrival at a new land was a common practice of the Christians who explored and colonized America. These thanksgiving prayers and feasts were held by Catholics and Protestants alike, and where relationships had been established, all included the local native Indians as well as the travelers.
One of the earliest was held in what is now El Paso Texas. Don Juan de Onate led an expedition of soldiers and settlers along El Camino Real in a three month journey north through Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande and setting camp at El Paso. de Onate named the land "New Mexico" and claimed it in the name of Jesus Christ, and King Philip II of Spain. The feast of Thanksgiving was held on April 30 1598. It began with a Catholic Mass, and included ducks, geese and fish.
Other early feasts of thanksgiving to God for safe arrival include:
Captain John Woodlief's arrival in Virginia on December 4, 1619. This feast was planned before the group of settlers had left England, and was stated in their charter thusly: "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perputually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
Pedro Menendez de Aviles celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving on arrival with 400 people to Florida, in September 1565. The Timucua Indians brought those native American foods we call "the three sisters": corn, beans, squash, as well as game and shellfish and joined the thanksgiving celebration. The Spanish cooked a big pot of stew with pork and beans cooked with onions.
And there are many others. All brought what they had, and tried new foods, together. The act of surviving an ocean voyage was a lot to be grateful for, and still is. The arrival upon a new continent, with the prospect of a hopeful, happy, prosperous future stretching out before you is a lot to be thankful for.
That this sense of thankfulness was celebrated by combining food offerings from all of the cultures gathered together laid the groundwork for the melting pot society that America became. America still is the great melting pot, despite the best efforts of elitists to try to impose various class systems and "cultural" schemes on the ordinary people. We The People invariably rise above that.
Because not just the pilgrims, but all of the immigrants to the New World were seeking relief from the settled ways of their old country that doomed them and their children to persistent persecution, poverty and servitude. This has continued to be true throughout our history.
In America, now as then, there is no peerage, no royalty, no caste system, no serfdom.
In America, now as then, it does not matter where you came from or who your parents were or where you got your education.
In America, now as then,you can choose where you live and how you make your living.
In America, now as then, you can convert from one religion to another without permission from the government.
That's a lot to be thankful for.