Immigrant Thanskgiving

Posted on December 03, 2013

Immigrant Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special American holiday that honors some of our first immigrants and how they were befriended by the first Americans. This history goes back almost 400 years and is linked to the Pilgrims who arrived at Plymouth Rock unprepared for the New England winter. The Pilgrims were fleeing oppression, seeking freedom and opportunity to improve their own well-being, and in desperate need of friends and cultural competency in a new world.  The Wampanoag people were one of the many ethnic groups already in America. The Wampanoags who lived in the area that we now call Massachusetts, the pilgrims, shared food, taught them skills of hunting and farming in a new environment, and how to survive a hard winter ahead. The original Thanksgiving meal paralleled a traditional harvest feast that the Pilgrims had known in England, but it attained new meaning when it became a lifeline for them in their acculturation to the new world.

In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday, a move intended partly as a gesture to try and unite North and South. In the early 1900s, when there were large numbers of immigrants coming to the U.S., national leaders again promoted Thanksgiving as a way to welcome and assist newcomers with food and friendship.

Now, in the early stages of a new century, we are seeing many people without enough food or economic opportunities who need assistance during hard times. They are not all immigrants, but are all a part of our neighborhoods and communities. It is a time for all of us to give thanks for our own well-being and that of our neighbors, and to be sure that our neighbors, wherever they are from, have enough food to eat, access to health care, and are welcomed and included in building strong communities.

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