Reflections on Thanksgiving

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I’m racing out the door to go spend Thanksgiving with my family. Here are some quick reflections and historical anecdotes I wish I could have explored in elementary school, instead of making paper maches of turkeys…

Travel time from England to America is 7-8 hours by airplane. Back in the 1600s, travel time was somewhere around 60 days by ship.

These days most people are like “man, leg room sucks. At least I get free drinks and movies so I don’t get bored!” Back in the 1600s it was more like “Man, good thing they have oranges on this ship so I don’t die of scurvy!”

Then again, I’m sure Native Americans and Pilgrims from the 1600s would be thankful for not being subjected to Ambrosia Salad.

Around 1620, a Wampanoag by the name of Squanto helped the pilgrims out, after half of them died while waiting around on the Mayflower at Plymouth through the winter. He taught them how to grow corn, catch fish, not eat poisonous plants, etc.

Squanto helped give thanksgiving a backstory


I wonder if any of the pilgrims gave thanks that Squanto didn’t hold any grudges, considering he did all this after he was kidnapped by an English sea captain, sold into slavery in Spain, managed to escape and return to North America. Oh – also, when Squanto finally made it back he found that over half the Wampanoag had died after catching the plague from European explorers.

In 1621, the colonists had a feast to celebrate their first successful corn harvest. They invited a few Wampanoags who brought deer with them as a gift. Apparently this is the first feast that would later inspire “Thanksgiving.” It’s not clear they had turkey, and it’s highly unlikely they had pumpkin pie, or any other pies, since they didn’t have much sugar or an oven. It’s unlikely the colonists wore funny hats, dressed in black and white, or wore shoes with buckles.

Thanksgiving as we know it today was dreamed up by Sarah Josepha Hale the author of the hit poem “Mary had a Little Lamb”.

After she read about the 1621 feast,  she lobbied Abraham Lincoln to make it a national holiday, which he did in 1863 .

Since those times a lot of Native Americans were annihilated as was their culture.

If you want to learn more about that, there are plenty of great history books on the subject, but Iron Maiden provides us a great starting point:

Things since then haven’t gotten much better as this great commercial from the 70s reminds us:

I shall reflect on this and other things this Thanksgiving, including the Washington Redskins’ losing season…

(fyi, the Native American in that commercial is actually Italian).


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