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Today's Thanksgiving Very Different Than The First

November 22, 2012 by Special To The ...

If you're like millions of Americans, you're heading out to join with family and friends today.
The dinner menu likely consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and other Thanksgiving favorites, along with plenty of good stories and laughs.
But the first Thanksgiving had a very different feel to it.
Long before football games and holiday marathons on television, settlers and Native Americans were living in close proximity to one another, making for a tense relationship. As such, hostility was always a possibility and, according to the following account of the first Thanksgiving, the genesis of the nation's first feast may have ended quite differently:
*One day that fall, four settlers were sent to hunt for food for a harvest celebration. The Wampanoag heard gunshots and alerted their leader, Massasoit, who thought the English might be preparing for war. Massasoit visited the English settlement with 90 of his men to see if the war rumor was true. Soon after their visit, the Native Americans realized that the English were only hunting for the harvest celebration. Massasoit sent some of his own men to hunt deer for the feast and for three days, the English and native men, women, and children ate together. The meal consisted of deer, corn, shellfish, and roasted meat, far from today's traditional Thanksgiving feast.
They played ball games, sang, and danced. Much of what most modern Americans eat on Thanksgiving was not available in 1621.
Although prayers and thanks were probably offered at the 1621 harvest gathering, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth happened two years later in 1623. On this occasion, the colonists gave thanks to God for rain after a two-month drought.
The Myths
Believe it or not, the settlers didn't have silver buckles on their shoes. Nor did they wear somber, black clothing. Their attire was actually bright and cheerful. Many portrayals of this harvest celebration also show the Native Americans wearing woven blankets on their shoulders and large, feathered headdresses, which is not true. The Englishmen didn’t even call themselves Pilgrims.
Modern Thanksgiving
In the 19th century, the modern Thanksgiving holiday started to take shape. In 1846, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of a magazine called Godley’s Lady’s Book, campaigned for an annual national thanksgiving holiday after a passage about the harvest gathering of 1621 was discovered and incorrectly labeled as the first Thanksgiving.
It wasn't until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared two national Thanksgivings; one in August to commemorate the Battle of Gettysburg and the other in November to give thanks for "general blessings."*
(The above information came from National Geographic Online.)

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