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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giving Thanks: The Greatest American Tradition

In nearly every nation and culture on Earth there is a holiday where we pause to say thanks. Some have more of these types of celebrations than others. Often these observances are tied to religion. It is the same in America, but we have one day that -- while many families bow their heads before the traditional turkey feast to say thanks -- does not require a trip to the church, synagogue or mosque. Thanksgiving may indeed be the greatest of American traditions.

From its founding, Thanksgiving has been different than many of our other holidays and observances because it actually causes us to reach across differences in race, religion and culture to embrace our fellow man. History tells us that Pilgrims escaping religious persecution and Native Americans experiencing the first white people they had ever encountered celebrated the first Thanksgiving feast together. Could there have been a wider gap in diversity between peoples? Could there be a better example of what is good about mankind? If we could only apply the simple logic of peace and coexistence displayed at that first Thanksgiving to each of our daily lives, the world would be an amazing place.

So you might be asking, "What is this doing in the midst of Lyke2Drink? I come here to read about beer, wine and spirits." OK, here's the beverage part.

Most of you likely know why the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts. It was not because that was where it was originally headed. The Pilgrims were supposed to land in Virginia, but passengers and crew were running low on beer. "We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer," is a quote in a log attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow.

You might also be interested to know that the Mayflower and her captain, Christopher Jones, spent most of their time before and after the trans-Atlantic voyage to the New World as a merchant ship that regularly hauled wine from the Continent to England. There were 102 passengers and a crew of around 25 on the trip to Massachusetts aboard a ship that was 90-110 feet long and 25 feet wide. It is reasonable to assume they knew each other pretty well by the time the 66-day journey had ended.

In doing some work on my family tree during the last year I have found some interesting information about why I find myself a citizen of the United States. One of the limbs on the tree can be traced back to 1650 when Dutch-Belgian ancestors arrived in New Amsterdam -- modern day Manhattan -- aboard the De Bonte Koe (The Spotted Cow). Another limb traces its route from Poland in 1902 aboard the Graf Waldersee. (Interestingly enough, part of my wife's family would use the exact same Hamburg-Amerika Line ship two years later to arrive in America. Both families would end up in Syracuse, N.Y.) While two and a half centuries transpired between the sailings of the De Bonte Koe and Graf Waldersee, both required courage and faith that few of us can really comprehend.

This Thanksgiving I will say thanks to all that I have and for the health and happiness of my family. I will also take a minute to think about people I never had the chance to meet and thank them for having the guts and determination to give up what they knew in favor of what they believed could be in a place they had never seen. I can only hope that they would be pleased to see how things have turned out so far.

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