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Giving and sharing thanks

Americans' cherished holiday of Thanksgiving is almost four centuries old. It began in 1621 after European immigrants, having arrived the year before in what they called “the New World” in their search for religious freedom, gathered together with their Native American neighbors to celebrate a bountiful harvest.

These Pilgrims had much for which to be thankful. They had survived a long ocean journey only to arrive in December of 1620 and find a desolate, unfamiliar land. Things began to look up in the spring when, after a terrible winter when many of the Pilgrims died, members of the neighboring Wampanoag tribe helped them learn how to find and grow food. The Pilgrims built houses and established their colony. To give thanks for their deliverance and for the beginning of their lives in a new land, the Pilgrims organised an autumn thanksgiving celebration inviting their Native American friends to join them.

This story is older than the nation itself. You could even call it defining. For though the United States would be founded in the next century, those who declared our independence in 1776 displayed much of the same steadfastness, hard work, and sense of adventure and cooperation that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe members demonstrated 150 years earlier.

The United States is still a forward-looking nation that cherishes these moments to come together to give thanks, and it is fitting that this focus on thanksgiving still brings together Americans from every race, creed, and region. Reaching out for others is especially significant during challenging economic and global times. That is why the American President so often travels on Thanksgiving Day to share the feast with our troops overseas on this day, we are one American family.

Thanksgiving is thus a time for us to renew our connection to one another and to share our blessings with others most Americans living overseas eagerly look forward to sharing the Thanksgiving tradition with host nation friends who have never experienced one. Around the world today, we are finding turkeys to cook, and cranberries to dress them, in as far flung places as Ouagadougou and Tashkent. All are welcome at the table.

I wish my own table were big enough to invite all Bermudians to gather around, celebrate, and give thanks with me, but there may not be enough turkeys on the island! So, on behalf of the American Society, let me extend an invitation to everyone, not just to Americans, to attend an interfaith Thanksgiving Day service today at St. Paul's AME Church on Court Street, Hamilton at 12.15pm. It is a chance to share and to reflect on all the reasons we have, both individually and as members of humankind, to be thankful.

Grace W Shelton is the United States Consul General to Bermuda

President Barack Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, pardons Liberty, a 19-week old, 45-pound turkey, on the occasion of Thanksgiving, on the North Portico of the White House in Washington. At left is National Turkey Federation Chairman Richard Huisinga.

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Published November 24, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 24, 2011 at 8:29 am)

Giving and sharing thanks

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