The story of Thanksgiving in the United States goes back to a few lines written by English colonist Edward Winslow describing a harvest-time meal held in the fall of 1621 at Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts. It was the 1621 harvest gathering that helped inspire the holiday that was nationally recognized in the 19th century. Last year to mark the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving, a local Massachusetts museum dedicated to the English colony of Plymouth and local indigenous tribes opened a new exhibit “to better understand the events that led to the first Thanksgiving”, as announced in the press release. Although Plymouth is known as “America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade”, several other states claim to have held the first Thanksgiving. There are reports that organizers of the annual Virginia Thanksgiving Festival have long insisted that English settlers in their state were the true originators in 1619 — two years before the Pilgrims held their feast. Sources from Texas to Florida argue that sit-together meals going back to the end of 16th century are in fact evidence that the holiday originated in their states. Some historians in Texas contend that an earlier Thanksgiving was held in El Paso in 1598. The Jacksonville Historical Society in Florida argues the first feast involving Spanish settlers and Indigenous people occurred in 1565.
With respect to the Albanian community it is worth-noting that the first Albanian oldcomers to America were Arberesh who landed in Boston in the mid 1800s. They had fled to Southern Italy between 14th and 18th century to escape the Ottoman invasion.
“The second wave occurred later on when a small body of men from the Southern regions of Albania came directly to America, documented in our library as the second Albanian oldcomers of Boston in the late of 1800s. They were the first recorded Albanians from Albania to immigrate to Massachusetts at this time”, writes Neka Doko of Albanian Chancery at Fan Noli Library and Cultural Center (In Massachusetts, from Pilgrim Fathers to Noli’s Albanian Journey, Dielli Newspaper, November Issue, 2019)
In 1952 Bishop Fan Noli was invited to the Massachusetts Senate to deliver the Thanksgiving prayer:
“We thank Thee, O Lord, for the countless blessings Thou hast showered on us. We thank Thee for the privilege of living in this country of freedom and opportunity. We thank Thee for the privilege of living in this progressive State, where the noble spirit of the Pilgrim Fathers still prevails. We thank Thee for the privilege of living in this city of learning, with its famous schools and universities. We beseech Thee to make us worthy of all these blessings, and enable us to use for Thy glory the benefits we derive from our rich environment. Help us to work for the welfare of the Albanian people, for the salvation of humanity, and for the establishment of Thy Kingdom on hearth.” (Printed in the Senate Journal)
As Noli says in the 1952 prayer, today we are not less thankful for the “privilege of living in this country of freedom and opportunity”. On the 70th anniversary of delivering the Thanksgiving prayer, the preeminent scholar with the highest regard for learning would appreciate and advocate that along with giving thanks on this holiday, we give thoughts to exploring its history through well-informed examination and careful consideration.