Being thankful according to the correct tradition isn’t always easy
The curmudgeon in me isn’t predisposed to sit down once a year and list the things for which I am thankful. I know that’s the wrong attitude, and I know that’s the way I’m not supposed to look at things. But it sometimes seems like I should somehow be thankful for the half-eaten Twinkie at the bottom of the dumpster of life.
In light of that, let’s take a good hard look at the first Thanksgiving. As part of my research, I Googled “first Thanksgiving.” Way more than a few websites came up, including one that actually claimed to be “the official site of the first Thanksgiving.” It turns out that the official site of the first Thanksgiving (www.plimoth.org) is an interactive “You-Be-The-Historian” site. Well, I’m not the historian, and excuse me for wanting the information readily available, and not buried deep within a virtual hellhole. Let’s move on.
Another website told the story of Thanksgiving we’re all too familiar with… “In early autumn of 1621, the 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their successful harvest, as was the English custom. During this time, ‘many of the Indians coming… amongst the rest their great king Massasoit, with some ninety men.’ That 1621 celebration is remembered as the “First Thanksgiving in Plymouth.” Yes, that’s the story we’ve been led to believe all these years, with characters like Myles Standish and Squanto, who taught the Pilgrims about fertilizing the soil with dead fish and introduced canned cranberry sauce to the New World. The only problem is that the story may not be correct!
The official Wikipedia Thanksgiving website postulates that, “The precise historical origin of the holiday is disputed. Although Americans commonly believe that the first Thanksgiving happened in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is strong evidence for earlier celebrations in Canada (1578) and by Spanish explorers in Florida (1565).” It figures that the Canadians and the Spaniards want to claim our holiday. Really… do they even have turkeys in Spain? And what did they really have to be thankful for in the mosquito-filled Florida of 1565? And the Canadians don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving in the correct month – someone should tell them that it’s really in November. And it certainly isn’t on a Monday! Thanksgiving… Thursday… notice the similarities in the first two letters?
Whichever Thanksgiving you celebrate, it’s interesting to note that it took until 1863 for the holiday to catch on as a national observance here in the United States, Official Home of Thanksgiving (coincidentally, the same year that the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions began hosting the NFL Thanksgiving Classic games). It took another 78 years for the U.S. Government to finalize that Thanksgiving was to fall on the fourth Thursday in November. At least they got the month and day correct.
If Benjamin Franklin had his way, Thanksgiving’s guest of honor would be our national bird. Franklin preferred the turkey over the bald eagle, noting that the eagle’s soaring majesty couldn’t compare to the ultimate sacrifices the turkey made to keep Pilgrims and colonists from starving in the New World. Let’s face the truth: the eagle looks better on the dollar bill, the turkey better on the serving dish.
As we eventually progress into Leftover Turkey Sandwich Weekend, let’s be thankful that the Christmas shopping season is about to hit us full force. They have already started the Luxury-Car-For-Christmas TV commercials for those who live in that special place. Black Friday is coming, but let’s not forget Small Business Saturday. Do whatever you can do to shop local merchants this holiday season, and keep our local economy strong.
If there’s anything I am truly thankful for, it’s that the latest Hurricane Season has shown us mercy once again. To whoever it is “up there” who is responsible for our lack of action this year (and for the past decade), I have but two words: Thank You. Now bring on the turkey!
John Bartus is a singer/songwriter, former Mayor of the City of Marathon, and past President of the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce. John performs Mondays at the new Cabana Restaurant and Tiki at Banana Bay resort, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Hawks Cay, Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, and Saturdays at the Key Colony Inn! www.johnbartus.com.