The First Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving is a matter of some debate and myth but is widely regarded to have happened in 1621 at Plymouth Rock.
The basic players were the pilgrims who had gotten on board the Mayflower ship to come over here to the New World to escape the religious persecution in England going on during those times.
Many accounts say there were only 53 of them left at the time of the first Thanksgiving due to harsh conditions, lack of food, and colder weather than anticipated. They also had no knowledge of what kind of crops and food sources they would have in the New World which contributed to the lack of food.
On the other side were the Wampanoag Indians and their great king chief Massasoit. He and 90 of his men joined the pilgrims for this first Thanksgiving feast and contributed five deer to the bountiful harvest.
The pilgrims were fortunate enough to kill enough wildfowl to last an entire week for their village. So enough wildfowl to feed 53 people for a week is obviously a tremendous amount of birds even if you only eat one bird per meal.
One of the unusual things you probably don’t know is this initial feast in 1621 lasted for three days.
The pilgrims entertained the 91 Indians over these three days as they feasted and enjoyed general merriment.
I can only imagine what it would have been like. It must have been quite a spectacle.
You have a bunch of uptight, very strangely dressed pilgrims and on the other side you have very free, scantily clothed Indians.
Of course neither side spoke the other’s language with any kind of skill. I imagine they’d picked up various pieces and spoke extremely broken versions of one another’s languages.
But as it so happens feasting and libations tend to bring men together no matter their differences or language barriers.
It is widely believed Lincoln was the first one to make Thanksgiving a tradition and a national holiday.
After doing the research for this article on the first Thanksgiving I found this parallel to make a lot of sense.
I had thought the first Thanksgiving was just one meal or maybe one day’s worth of meals between the pilgrims and the Indians.
And so I always wondered why we got three days off from school (sometimes 3 1/2 days) for this national holiday.
Now I know since the first feast lasted three days this is probably why old honest Abraham Lincoln wanted to make it for three days. To maintain that solidarity of the first feast even though the original Thanksgiving wasn’t repeated on a regular basis.
That first holiday feast was a one-time only deal. At least in this form with the Indians and the pilgrims gathering in a formalized setting.
The English had been celebrating bountiful harvest and giving thanks for quite a while, many centuries in fact. But it was purely and solely a religious holiday thanking God for the bountiful fruits and abundant food he bestowed on people.
Obviously, this initial Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and Indians would have had limited ability to be a wholly religious holiday.
I’m sure the pilgrims said their prayers, held each other’s hands, and did all the various religious sacred rituals which go along with their beliefs.
I can also imagine the look of astonishment on the Indians faces as the pilgrims bowed their heads, closed their eyes, clasped their hands together and said the strange words to God which the Indians couldn’t understand.
They also must have wondered why the pilgrims were doing this when the food was ready and it was time to eat.
It would be very cool to have a time machine (Marty McFly and Doc Brown style) and be able to go back to that first Thanksgiving just to observe the show.
But you and I are only left to speculate and imagine how it went down and what might have been.
I’ve put my own perspective on it. Make your comments on any other things you imagine might have gone down or observations which come to your mind about the first Thanksgiving.