The History of the 1st Thanksgiving–Kind of…

November 22, 2016 - Posted by Eric Helms in Fall, Top 5

Maybe we’ve missed the good ol’ gravy boat on what Thanksgiving actual should be all about. I mean think about it for a second. Can you imagine our ancestors, powdered wigs on point and all, even caring about endless hours of football and harvesting enough Kohl’s Cash to stabilize the currency of a failing, South American government. Of course not! Besides being a foolish economic policy (c’mon, anyone knows Kohl’s Cash would only lead ultimately to hyperinflation, smh.), it’s fairly obvious; we’re missing the point of Thanksgiving today.

To help me really get to the meaning of this holiday, I decided to take a deep dive into the very word itself. Most people think it means, “to give thanks.” Sure, but I’m not going to be spoon-fed by the mainstream dictionary industry, thank you very much. So I broke the word down into two parts, Thanks & Giving. I did this mainly because Thanksgi & Ving aren’t real words and don’t make any sense. Now, looking at the word this way, *ahem*, ok–it definitely means the same thing Webster said it meant. So the problem isn’t the word. The problem is that we aren’t doing what the word says. But I’ll tell you who knew how to throw down a heaping helping of old fashioned thankfulness–those Colonial Era cousins of ours. It’s actually some pretty simple stuff–caring, sharing, and thanking. Let’s see how those Puritans got it done, son.

Now I must warn you, reader, I’m basing all colonial history on what I remember from the day we made stone soup in 2nd Grade. Also, this soup was made in the same classroom that had a poster on the wall of an alligator that read, “Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat.” So with that weird, fat shaming visual as a contextual backdrop, just realize this is going to get a little bumpy, historically speaking.


Sowing corn never looked so cool.

102 sturdy souls sailed from England in 1620, hooked a right, and ended up at Plymouth Rock, all in order to escape religious persecution. Yet, nearly 400 years later, Chick-fil-A still closes its delicious doors on Sundays. So how much progress has really been made? I guess that’s a topic for a different day. Anyways, the men in black land, and begin to realize this is going to be a little bit tougher than they anticipated. Like ‘half of them aren’t going to get seats at the 1st Thanksgiving ‘ tough. And in all truth, that’s where this story should’ve ended. And it would’ve, if not for some Native Americans deciding to care. They cared enough to overlook the Pilgrim’s goofy outfits and show them the secrets of cultivation and survival. I’m sure you know the story. Dig a hole, throw in a fish head, and plant some maize, and voilà. Rinse and repeat, and so forth. And of course the Native Americans were richly rewarded for their hospitality with incurable bouts of smallpox. Repayment for the win!


Colonial Thanksgiving

No, we're good sitting on the floor. We only kept you alive this winter and all, no biggie.

If caring is sharing, then you can just ignore that last paragraph, as it will become a little redundant. I didn’t wake up today and expect to use a Care Bears quote, but I got to say, I’m not mad about it either. To this first Thanksgiving feast, the Wampanoag tribe shared with the Pilgrims a meal full of traditional, Native American fare. There would be no turkeys stuffed at this meal because venison was the meat of choice back then. Also, this was pre-Stove Top Stuffing, so what would’ve of the point been anyways. Despite what your lying Nana tells you, she definitely doesn’t have the recipe for the 1st Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie either. Dwindling sugar supplies, and the lack of ovens made that dessert a no show. Not to fret, the Pilgrims were treated to a true Native American treat–mashing a slightly sweet twig between their teeth. The weird thing about sharing is that the less you have, the farther it goes. Hmm…feels like there could be a lesson in there as we come up on Black Friday.


The original pardon.

Tradition was the name of the game during the early Thanksgiving celebrations. Days of alternating fasting and feasting were highlighted with the bounty of the land, for which the settlers were beyond thankful. We also have a nice little Thanksgiving tradition in my family. Everyone gathers round a fully dressed feasting table, and then eats in complete silence, save the knives and forks that awkwardly grate against plates. Ahhhhh….let the good times roll. The harsh circumstances dealt to our brave forbearers created grateful hearts. The closest equivalent to those brutal conditions I can think of today is when my Auntie explains in excruciating detail the color scheme of her new sitting room. And factoring in that the original Thanksgiving lasted for THREE days, my terror turns into true gratitude. I only have to nod my head in tryptophan-induced submission until the first person needs me to move my car out of the driveway so they can leave. I’ll give thanks to that any day of the week.

So save your hashtag #Thankful and really mean it this year by realizing where you are, how you got there, and how lucky you truly are to be gathered around your loved ones. To steal a Jim Valvano quote, “I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you’re emotions going.” Now that’s some deceptively simple advice from the late Jimmy V, and it’s a gentle reminder to be truly thankful. As you pass the clumpy gravy, and agilely dodge awkward conversations this turkey day, remember that this, all of this, is the good stuff.


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