Sunday, October 13, 2013


The first Thanksgiving celebration by Euro-peoples in North America was not in New England but in Newfoundland by Martin Frobisher, 42 years before the Pilgrims.

Frobisher's Thanksgiving was not for harvest but homecoming. He had safely returned from a search for the Northwest Passage, avoiding the later fate of Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin.

Given the fierceness of Arctic winter and the tragedy of these other expeditions, we can understand why he was grateful to come out alive. But why a special thanksgiving?

Frobisher sailed under Elizabeth I, whose reign was marked by gratitude from beginning to end. For her first 20 years she held public thanksgiving simply for having lived to ascend the throne -- having escaped the fate of her mother, Anne Boleyn, at the hand of her sister, "Bloody Mary," in the previous reign.

Ten years after Frobisher's return, England gave thanks for delivery from the Spanish Armada. And in her last speech to Parliament the great Queen began "We perceive your coming is to offer thanks ..." and went on to return those thanks to her subjects.

It was in this spirit of thanksgiving --for being alive, protected, and appreciated -- that the English language and culture flowered in the works of Shakespeare, Spencer and Ben Johnson. England was very different then -- it was known as "Merrie Englande: its grown men laughed, cried, danced and loved exuberantly -- like their Sovereign." This was the context of Frobisher's 1578 Thanksgiving in Newfoundland.


Anonymous said...

As posted by Adam Goldenberg.

It's not "Canadian Thanksgiving," just "Thanksgiving." We didn't win the War of 1812 to add adjectives to holidays.

Anonymous said...

fair nuff