Lots to be thankful for

Published 11:28 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Do you realize we’ve been giving thanks for almost 400 years?”
“Ah, yes, you refer our country’s Thanksgiving tradition, which originated with the very first Thanksgiving in November 1621. But did you know that much of our Thanksgiving tradition is based on a myth?”
“What do you mean myth?”
“According to The Christian Science Monitor, everything historians know about the first Thanksgiving is based on the accounts of two colonists: Gov. William Bradford and a fellow named Edward Winslow.”
“Go on.”
“In 1621, in a letter to a friend, Winslow said that after a plentiful harvest, the 53 remaining colonists decided to feast. The governor sent out four men to hunt for fowl. Ninety Native Americans, the Wampanoags, also joined in; they contributed five deer. The colonists and Wampanoags feasted for three days.”
“They ate venison on Thanksgiving?”
“Yep. There were no mashed potatoes. The colonists didn’t have those yet. They had no butter, bread or sugar, either. There were no sweet cranberries or pies. They had no ovens. Their feast probably included foods that were accessible to them, including grapes, plums, flint corn and seafood. As for the fowl, there were wild turkeys but also geese and duck.”
“Thanksgiving duck?”
“Gov. Bradford wrote about the first Thanksgiving in a book that details the history of the Plymouth settlement. Here’s how he described the pilgrim’s good fortune that year: ‘All the summer there was no want… And besides waterfowl there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.’”
“If Gov. Bradford wrote a book with detailed descriptions of the first Thanksgiving, why are our Thanksgiving traditions so different than the first?”
“Because the British stole his book during the Revolutionary War. It didn’t turn up until the late 1800s — well after America’s Thanksgiving traditions were in place.”
“Then where in the heck did our Thanksgiving traditions come from?”
“A woman named Sarah Josepha Hale created them. She was the editor of a popular lady’s magazine. In 1858, she petitioned the president to declare it a national holiday and, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln did just that. Hale published lots of recipes for turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc. — the same grub we still eat today!”
“I suppose it doesn’t matter where our Thanksgiving traditions originated. What does matter is that our country still has so much to be thankful for!”
“You have to admit we’ve had one heck of a run since our Founders declared independence from King George on July 4, 1776 — 239 years ago! Because we still hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“I never tire of that line! We’ve had a share of bumps in the road, and there are a lot of things we need to address if we intend to keep chugging along. Still, this time every year it is good to do what the pilgrims did during the very first Thanksgiving: take stock of our plentiful harvest and be thankful to God.”
“That’s the spirit. Maybe you might try some geese, duck, flint corn or seafood with your turkey dinner?”
“Maybe next year.”
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.

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