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Explaining another odd American Holiday: Thanksgiving

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posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 08:53 AM
Well it seems yet another odd holiday is upon the US that needs some explaining for not only our non-US members, but the Americans that think they know what it is all about.

For most Americans, it is the celebration of the “First Thanksgiving” by the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock in 1621. Naturally, this was not the first harvest festival meal that was eaten in the current US. There was the Spanish, on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida. And even was specifically mentioned as setting aside a day of thanksgiving in the charter of Berkeley Hundred which was part of the Virginia Colonies in 1619. But since the holiday is about tradition and not facts, Thanksgiving is all about the plight and survival of the Pilgrims.

The story actually begins in 1614, when a Patuxet named Tisquantum, anglicized as Squanto was captured for slavery by Captain Thomas Hunt. Squanto was sold to some Spanish monks who had tried to convert him but eventually set him free. He had made passage to England and signed on as a translator on an expedition to Newfoundland. Squanto returned to his home in 1619 to find that the entire tribe had been wiped out by disease, most likely small pox or possibly leptospirosis from repeated contact with English explorers.

As the Pilgrims arrived Squanto and some members of the Wampanoag Tribe taught them how to cultivate corn, squash, beans as well as how to fish and hunt game. Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag, came to negotiate help from the colonists and signed a treaty on March 22, 1621. In the 10 years prior to the arrival of Pilgrims, they had fought and lost a war with the Micmac from the north and lost their coastal territories while the Perqout encroached upon their lands to the west in Connecticut. A series of plagues had wiped out as many as 90% of the remaining Wampanoag. Meanwhile the Narragansett, who avoided European contact and thus significantly avoided the plagues, had began demanding tribute from Massasoit and the Wampanoag.

Despite all the hardships endured that first winter, 45 of the 102 died—13 of the 18 women with another dying that spring, the colony was successful. There is however no mention if the remaining 4 women cooked the dinner for the remaining 49 Englishmen and however many Indians that attended the First Thanksgiving.

But more so interesting is the odd road of the establishment of the holiday. Washington proclaimed in in 1789 and then only again in 1795. John Adams did in 1798 and 1799. Thomas Jefferson, never proclaimed one. James Madison proclaimed the next one in 1814 and two in 1815 (neither of which were in autumn). The next proclamation by a President was Lincoln in 1863, which became an annual tradition afterwards with Franklin D Roosevelt and Congress establishing the final date as the fourth Thursday in November in December of 1941 to begin 1942.

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President with a live turkey and two dressed ones. Despite the claims of Truman and/or Lincoln pardoning turkeys, that tradition seems to have started with George H.W. Bush in 1989.

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 09:05 AM
It amazes me that even today most Americans do know know or even care to know the history of Thanksgiving.
Thanks for the post.

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 10:37 AM
reply to post by Ahabstar

Thanks for the post Ahabstar,

While we only celebrate one day, the first Thanksgiving lasted three days.
Three days seems a bit overkill, but I could go for two.
And, then enjoy more of the beer that The Puritans brought over in the Mayflower.

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 01:55 PM
Here's a little known fact. Many American Indian nations had celebrations of thanks for the harvest and also for the hunt this time of year.

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 02:00 PM
Good job Ahab! I bet if you asked around younger generations today , they would have NO clue where the story of thanksgiving came from other than "Some pilgrims did it"

I love history, thanks for bringing some more up for this fine day!

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 03:58 PM
I forgot to add a source to my post. Here it is:source

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 04:28 PM
It's been a while since I thought about some of this history.

One of the interesting things about the "success" of the Pilgrims, had to do with their "dumb luck" (or Providence), landing at Plymouth Rock, which was, unbeknownst to them, one of the safest places they could have landed.

As you point out, plague had been an issue in the greater area for a decade. Squanto was "lucky" to have been captured, because had he remained, he would likely have died along with hundreds of other Native Americans. Prior to this plague, the particular area around Plymouth Rock would have been extremely dangerous, due to the fact that the most warrior-like tribe resided there. They had made war on the other tribes, but they ALL died due to the plague.

While this was a relief to the other tribes, that area became feared almost as a mysterious death zone, and so no Indians entered that territory, at the time of the landing of the Plymouth.

The Pilgrims had no idea that they had been "preserved" from almost certain destruction because of the recent plague history. If I recall correctly, it wasn't until that following summer that Squanto strolled into the Pilgrim camp by himself, wearing only his loincloth, and walked into a meeting where the men were assembled. No doubt there would have been a moment of fear as this Indian entered, but to their astonishment, he began speaking to them in more or less perfect English.

It was from Squanto that the Pilgrims first learned of their incredibly "providential" good fortune, having arrived at the perfect time, and place, that allowed them to avoid a calamity that they weren't even aware of. Supposedly, the Pilgrims were humbled by this knowledge, declaring that they had been preserved by God, and therefore needed to give thanks to the Almighty.

It's been a long time, but if memory serves, the true first "Thanksgiving" that the Pilgrims had was near the end of the summer of 1622, and there were Indians present. It was certainly not November.

Well, that's all out of a foggy old memory. Hope others can clarify further!

Happy Thanksgiving to all...


posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 08:56 PM

Originally posted by Skid Mark
Here's a little known fact. Many American Indian nations had celebrations of thanks for the harvest and also for the hunt this time of year.

Here's another fun fact: Every European people have had a form of Harvest festival, most people throughout the World had one in some fashion ..

Thanksgiving is just carrying on the age old pagan traditions.

posted on Nov, 25 2010 @ 09:19 PM
reply to post by Rockpuck

Yep. Right you are. Cultures all over the world had traditions like that.

posted on Dec, 4 2011 @ 01:18 AM
That was good info, didnt know the whole story. I thought the whole turkey pardon thing went way back.shows how much school teaches us...

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