November 18, 2007

Carving away at Thanksgiving myths

What were the Pilgrims and their Thanksgiving like? Author carves away at the mythsWhat were you able to learn about the feast that has become our Thanksgiving celebration?

It’s kind of an intimidating thing to write about. If there’s anything that’s encrusted with legend and myth, it’s the first Thanksgiving.

It turns out everything we know about the first Thanksgiving came from a letter from Edward Winslow. It’s just a paragraph in that letter. They never called it Thanksgiving. That was a term applied in the 19th century. This was more in keeping with a harvest festival, typical of any English town. It would have occurred in late September, early October. Winslow said they had ducks and geese in abundance. He makes no mention of turkeys, although they could have had turkeys. There were plenty of turkeys around.

We also know they had five deer provided by the Indians, the Wampanoags. This is where the story gets interesting. We think of it as a predominantly Pilgrim affair. But by this time half the Pilgrims had died. There were just over 50 of them left. They would have been outnumbered by the Indians 2-to-1.

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