Thanksgiving 2008 – Thanksgiving History – What’s Real and What’s Not
Thanksgiving History – What’s Real and What’s Not
Thanksgiving history is an interesting topic and even has some controversy and mistruths surrounding it. I for one have been led astray by basic school teaching which my research for this article proved to be false.
Thanksgiving has a long-standing tradition throughout American history dating back to when the Wampanoag Indians traveled to the original settlers of Plymouth rock village to enjoy Thanksgiving with them. These are guys like William Bradford the governor of the colony and King Massasoit the Indians leader breaking bread together.
There is no evidence this 1st thanksgiving feast was ever repeated and yet it is often pointed to as the harbinger which started what is now a long entrenched American tradition.
The original pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and had a dreadful time surviving in this harsh new environment they were unfamiliar with. Also, being that it was very close to winter and they had very few food stores the timing was dead set against them.
One of the myths I learned is Pocahontas and John Smith were part of the first thanksgiving.
Back in my schooling it had always been connected that John Smith and Pocahontas where part of the thanksgiving festivities.
But Pocahontas died on March 21, 1617 and the first thanksgiving at Plymouth rock happened in 1621 four years after she was dead.
Down south of Massachusetts in the year 1619 more than two years before the Plymouth rock Thanksgiving celebration there is a tale of Virginia settlers kneeling and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest they had received.
This basic tradition of giving thanks to nature and to God for exceptional harvests has been done by pagans and Christians alike for centuries though.
It was long known that many groups of Indians had been giving this kind of thanks throughout their history over the centuries long before Europeans even knew the Americas existed.
Thanksgiving history gets much more intriguing when you dig a little bit deeper.
But this gives you a surface level of knowledge to impart to your kids on what the real story is and what really happened. Also they can be sure now of the players involved.
Thanksgiving was not established as a national holiday until well after the Revolutionary war. After the first recognized celebration in 1621 there is no further evidence this thing was continued on any kind of regular basis. At least not in a formal way.
One of the most interesting things about the history of thanksgiving and really what the whole holiday is about is the wonderful food.
So what was actually on the menu for that first thanksgiving?
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of leading historians it’s largely unknown because there are no good records.
In a first hand account from Edward Winslow it’s certain that wild fowl and venison were on the menu.
This much is clear….meats were an extremely important part of the feast because depending on the time of year many vegetables weren’t available to the colonists.
It’s also a myth they had pies. Though they had brought some sugar with them their supply had dwindled by the time of the first thanksgiving and also they had no ovens to bake the pies anyway.
So it’s likely some creative corporate salesman decided to link pumpkin pie and other various sweets to thanksgiving for commercial gain. Similar to holidays like “Valentines Day” and “St. Patrick’s Day”. Even Christmas has been highly commercialized.
One other thing which is very different at the start of Thanksgiving history was the way the colonists ate. They didn’t eat their meals in courses nor did they regularly sample all of the different dishes.
What you ate was determined by your social standing and based on this the appropriate food was placed in front of you where you are sitting at the table and you ate those foods closest to you.
Hopefully, this brief Thanksgiving history has been as enlightening to you as the research I had to do to write this article was to me. And now you can tell your child for certain the true origins of the history of thanksgiving.
Add any interesting anecdotes or other snippets of information about this holidays history to the conversation via a comment. I look forward to any family stories or traditions you have surrounding thanksgiving.