In 1621 the Pilgrim colonists of Plymouth, Mass., celebrated their first harvest in the New World with a three-day feast, an extended dinner party that is the origin of our modern Thanksgiving observance.
Days of thanksgiving were common in early America, being held in appreciation for a community’s deliverance from drought, disease, famine and other hardships associated with life on the frontier.
The Pilgrims barely survived their first winter in New England on meager rations left from their Atlantic crossing, supplemented by what food they could hunt themselves or borrow from their Indian neighbors. So in November they gave thanks to God that their bountiful harvest would spare them the privations of the previous winter.
While the tradition of the feast endures, it seems sometimes that as a society we have become less thankful. In the midst of so much, we forget the human effort and divine miracle that produces such bounty.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, which each year conducts a market survey of the retail cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner, reports this year’s feast cost American consumers only 1 cent more than last year’s.
In a completely unscientific survey, the AFBF found dinner for 10 that includes turkey, sweet potatoes, vegetables, rolls and pie costs just $48.91.
When the AFBF did its first Thanksgiving survey in 1986, the same meal for 10 guests cost $28.74. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s $61.24 in today’s dollars. When adjusted for inflation, the cost of our feast has gone down.
For less than $5 a head, we can stuff ourselves and have leftovers to boot.
Who do we thank?
Our thoughts turn to the farmers and ranchers, who year after year work harder and longer to produce more food on less ground to feed an ever growing population.
But those who tend the land know that there is more at work. They provide the sweat and the tears, the miracle comes from somewhere else.