The Holiday Season is upon us, and Thanksgiving is a special day to enjoy with family and friends. It welcomes the transition from Fall to Winter and the marvels it brings. A time of joy and hope! I have said many times “nothing is as it seems,” as the truth or true history is never told or taught with regard to what really happen or how it is that we celebrate most holidays. Therefore, as we enjoy the graciously prepared food on this day; think about the real history of Thanksgiving.
Let’s go back in time. It was in September 1620 when a tiny ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers of an assorted cast of religious separatists or as we might call them today – religious zealots. They set out seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith with individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World.
The journey across the Atlantic was treacherous and an uncomfortable crossing that lasted sixty-six days before they dropped anchor near Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. After about a month, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth. They saw that there were no fences, so the thought the land was theirs for the taking, and they did just that – took it.
The first winter was brutal causing most of the colonists to remain on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy, and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first spring in the so-called new world. It wasn’t until spring that the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian, who greeted them in English. Shortly after that, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe. Squanto had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition.
Squanto was the person who taught the Pilgrims, who were starving and sick, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. This is the beginning of what is now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”; although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term, at the time, history reports that the festival lasted three days.
As you can imagine, there is no record of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.
What most people don’t know it that after that Thanksgiving was not celebrated each year, rather it was a celebration had after a major victory resulting from a battle in a war. It was not until the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln did the holiday become a national holiday celebrated each year. Today as with all holidays, it has become an economic extension of capitalism. In spite of its history, I wish you and yours a safe and blessed day. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…