By Phil Junker
Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with tradition, and it dates back to before the founding of our country. It predates the event called “the first Thanksgiving” when the Pilgrims and Indians met to share a meal or meals.
When the Indians and Pilgrims gathered, it is likely the gathering went on for several days. There undoubtedly was plenty of eating, but it may not have been much like pictured in some books. There weren’t any pumpkin pies because there were no ovens for baking. There also weren’t a lot of eating utensils around, so probably there was a rush to grab a turkey leg or wing to chew on.
Records don’t indicate that the Thanksgiving event was repeated by the Pilgrims, so apparently no tradition was started there.
However, even before the Pilgrims arrived in this country, the first Americans (Indians) conducted traditional ceremonies and rituals related to the harvest to express their gratitude to a higher power for life itself.
One Seneca ritual stated, “Our creator...Shall continue to dwell above the sky, and this is where those on the earth will end their thanksgiving.” Also attributed to Indians prior to the arrival of Columbus was a saying that “the plant has nourishment from the earth and its limbs go up this way, in praise of its Maker...like the limbs of a tree.”
Thanksgiving over the years has become known as an American tradition. It certainly is a holiday the Junker family enjoys.
For years, the family gathered at Grandma’s little house at Marshall, Ill. The men usually hunted in the morning while the women prepared a big meal--more food than we possibly could eat
As family members moved and older members passed away, things began to change. It was harder to get the big group together, so individual family members began to gather with their children.
For the Junkers and my wife’s family, the day became one of thanksgiving, food and football, and for some a nap after the big dinner. That dinner was not only a turkey, it also included ham, several types of dressing (some don’t like oysters), at least two kinds of cranberry sauce, and who knows how many pies and desserts.
For several years, I made a meager attempt to get the women to agree to go out to eat, but they wouldn’t listen, let alone agree. The meal preparation is an integral part of the holiday. The women catch up on each other’s lives in the process. My brother-in-law Paul cooks the turkey outside in a smoker.
Most families have their traditions, and a ran across a couple of different ones last week while fishing with friends at Kentucky Lake.
One family gathers for homemade pizza. Now, that’s different. The other meets in Paducah for a wiener roast. Yea, wiener roast. They cook over an outdoor bonfire and enjoy the outdoors.
All of the members I know from another family, meet at a shelter in Indianapolis to help cook a hearty meal for the disadvantaged and homeless. That’s their way of giving thanks for their own personal bounty.
In this country, we truly have been blessed. Most of us have an abundance of food and warm homes. And whether we dine turkey, hot dogs or pizza, we have much for which to be thankful.
Thanks on this special day should not only be offered to the Creator, but to our spouses, family and friends, who do so much for us every day.