I have been doing some studying on the yearly food fest known as Thanksgiving and have learned some facts, some of them damn startling…others not surprising at all. What shocked me about Thanksgiving and what are the truths I learned that were not so astounding?
- It was not established as a religious holiday, contrary to popular belief. Now I don’t have to worry about offending more pious relatives when I refuse to ‘bless’ my food!
- The first Thanksgiving was not really the first – it was an extravaganza spread out over a couple of days, a carryover from the English harvest festivals that were celebrated around the end of September.
- New York state officially made a day of Thanksgiving an annual celebration in 1817. By the middle of the century, so had many other states. However, it wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November to be the holiday known as Thanksgiving – though it was not adopted officially (1939) until President F. D. Roosevelt made it so – though he kept changing the Thursday from the 2nd to the 4th to the 3rd due to some Novembers having more Thursdays than others). Congress passed it into official existence in 1941.
- The Pilgrims and the Native Americans were not friends.The Pilgrims did not invite the Indians to their harvest fest, nor did they exchange gifts of food and such with the Natives. According to many sites, there was a slaughter of the Wampanoag people by the supposedly peaceful and ultra-religious Pilgrims. From Indian Country Today comes this appalling information: According to Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Ramona Peters, “It was Abraham Lincoln who used the theme of Pilgrims and Indians eating happily together. He was trying to calm things down during the Civil War when people were divided. It was like a nice unity story.”
- Also from Indian Country Today, as well as several other websites I perused during my 2-day research: In 1621, though the Pilgrims celebrated a feast, it was not repeated in the years to follow. In 1636, a murdered white man was found in his boat and the Pequot were blamed. In retaliation settlers burned Pequot villages.Additionally, English Major John Mason rallied his troops to further burn Pequot wigwams and then attacked and killed hundreds more men, women and children. According to Mason’s reportsof the massacre, “We must burn them! Such a dreadful terror let the Almighty fall upon their spirits that they would flee from us and run into the very flames. Thus did the Lord judge the heathen, filling the place with dead
bodies.” The day after the massacre, William Bradford who was also the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote that from that day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots and “For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”