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 The Truth about Thanksgiving

Everyone knows the story about the First Thanksgiving right? I mean c’mon even kids in Kindergarten know the real story.

In 1621 The Pilgrims and the Indians sat down and had a nice, friendly meal together. No fighting was allowed on that day. Everyone sat down at the Plymouth Plantation to a meal of turkey, corn, fruit, pumpkin pie, apple cider, and potatoes.

The point of the dinner was to celebrate the bountiful harvest and prove to the Pilgrims and Indians that they could live together in peace.

That story works for me. In fact, every Thanksgiving I run it through my head while I’m basting the turkey, preparing the stuffing, and while I’m watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Yeah, it’s a nice story isn’t it? It’s positively downright heartwarming. And it may be a downright lie.

I thought that my days of learning the shocking truth about holidays were long gone. Y’know it took me a long time to get over the fact that Santa Claus wasn’t the guy I thought he was. I dealt with the Easter Bunny myth. And don’t even get me started on the Tooth fairy!

But Thanksgiving is the one holiday I can count on to not let me down. It’s not like there’s a giant turkey named, Tom, who leaves presents for us every year and whose true identity will one day be revealed. No. Thanksgiving is safe. Nobody was going to mess with Thanksgiving.

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Then I stumbled upon an article containing some disturbing “Anti Thanksgiving” information.

Apparently some folks think that the friendly first Thanksgiving wasn’t exactly friendly.

Here’s how they (whoever they are) think it went down:

MYTH # 1-The happy Pilgrims were celebrating a great harvest

A harvest feast did take place in Plymouth in 1621, but probably sometime in mid-October and not in November.

The first winter on Plymouth Rock for the Pilgrims was devastating. The Pilgrim crop failed miserably that year, they were literally starving. In fact, of the original 102 Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower, only 46 Pilgrims remained.

The Pilgrims were outnumbered by the Wampanoag Indians 2 to 1. The Pilgrims thought that the Indians were savages and dangerous. In fact, they thought them to be of Satan.

Quite simply, the Pilgrims were hungry and thought it best to keep the Indians on their good side, until more Pilgrims could arrive that is.

MYTH # 2- Thanksgiving Was About Family. Put away your Norman Rockwell paintings! Thanksgiving was a melting pot event. If it had been about family, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them in the first place. And the Wampanoag tribe wasn’t the happy, smiling Indians who we picture at the First Thanksgiving table either. They knew the power of the White Man and didn’t trust him. But their religious beliefs taught them to be charitable and to help those who came to them in need. So it seems that both sides had some ulterior motives for the so-called friendly feast.

MYTH # 3-Thanksgiving is a one day affair. Actually, the celebration lasted three days, not one. When the Pilgrims invited the Indians, they underestimated how many were going to show up. They ran out of food. The Indians went back home to get more. In fact, the Indians supplied most of the food, even though they were the Pilgrims “guests”.

MYTH # 4 The Pilgrims and Indians Ate Turkey. No one knows for sure if turkey was served on that First Thanksgiving Day. But there was definitely venison (deer meat). Interestingly enough, potatoes were thought to be poisonous and were not present at the feast pumpkin pie or apple cider supposedly wasn’t served either! Vegetables were not available at that time of year and they didn’t eat any pies because there wasn't a supply of sugar or any ovens to cook the pies in. Cranberry sauce probably wasn’t served because it wasn’t a common food at that time.

There was boiled pumpkin though. And there was fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams and plums. In colonial times, a person ate what was available (not much), when it was available (not very often). No one back then saved room for pumpkin pie. Shocking I know!

MYTH # 7-The Pilgrims Wore Black. Not really about Thanksgiving per se, but I found this interesting.

Not only did they not dress in black, they didn’t wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or big black hats! So how did we get the idea of the buckles? According to historian James W. Baker in the 19th century, when the popular image of the Pilgrims was formed, buckles served as a kind of symbol of quaintness and purity. And that's the reason illustrators gave Santa buckles as well. Let’s just leave Ol’ St. Nick out of this shall we!

Oh yeah, about the Indians attire, the Indians probably wore more than lion cloths and were fully clothed to the feast to protect themselves from the chilly autumn in New England.

MYTH # 8- And they all lived happily ever after. So did the Pilgrims and Indians live together in peace after that First Thanksgiving? Nope. In fact according to the article, the children of those very Pilgrims and Indians were fighting each other in the conflict known as, King Philip’s War. At the end of that war, most of the Indians were killed. Some of them were actually later sold into slavery by the Puritans!

Can this be? Is this really the truth? Have I been told a lie all of these years by my teachers and even my parents? Am I going to have to face the rest of my Thanksgivings with sadness and bitterness? Am I going to have tell my grandchildren that the First Thanksgiving was a fake? Am I going to tell them that the Pilgrims and Indians had weapons hidden under their seats and that they were checking their watercress for poison!

No! I won’t! I can’t do it! That would be like telling them that there was no Santa Claus, Easter bunny, Tooth Fairy. I’m going to tell them the beautiful story that I grew up believing about the Pilgrims and the Indians. They can figure out the truth on their own.

Besides, who knows what really happened that First Thanksgiving Day? They must have been having a good time. After all, the party lasted three days, didn’t it?

Happy Thanksgiving Y’All

Posted by oxyjen on Nov 21, 2007


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