Thanksgiving Past and Present

by Steve on November 23, 2006

What we now know as the holiday of Thanksgiving bears little resemblance to the original harvest celebration. Legend has it that “The First Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 at Plymouth Colony involving the English colonists and Wampanoag indians. The traditions of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest were rooted deep within Native American culture long before we showed up. A long table for a sit-down dinner with Pilgrims and Indians dining in European tradition and manners is not a likely scenario. According to historians it was a three-day harvest celebration and while there might have been a wild turkey or two on the spit it is far more likely that duck, goose, fish, and venison were consumed in much greater quantities. That and a lot of corn.

The Wampanoag and Plymouth colonists often ate wild turkey, however it was not specifically mentioned in connection with that 1621 harvest celebration. Edward Winslow said only that four men went hunting and brought back large amounts of “fowl” – more likely from the scenario to be seasonal waterfowl such as ducks and geese. And what about the stuffing? Yes, the Wampanoag and English did occasionally stuff the birds and fish, typically with herbs, onions or oats (English only).

(More history here.)

You farmed and hunted to survive and if you were successful you gathered with your friends, family, and neighbors to thank God for providing. I know quite a few people that if forced to live off the land would probably die shortly thereafter.

Thanksgiving is still about survival in a sense. Navigating back home through the madness of today’s interstate system on a holiday weekend. Making it out of the grocery store intact after an unplanned return trip for those few forgotten items. Then we have the modern phenomenon, which I avoid at all costs, of marathon shopping. I rely completely upon the internet and UPS to keep me at a safe distance from all malls come November preferring instead the peaceful solitude of the forest and marshes. In a way, hunting connects me with generations past which took game out of necessity – and gave thanks for the sustenance.

If our forefathers could look at what we endure in our modern lives they just might think that they had it soft!

While you’re celebrating family and giving thanks this season don’t forget those who make your lives easier by fighting so that you don’t have to.

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