November 24, 2016
The First Thanksgiving in the New World
Most children in America’s public schools are taught the Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving because they were thankful for the help of the nearby Indians — totally ignoring the real reason they were thankful. Even the US Census Bureau in their October 16th “Profile America Facts for Features” email stated: “In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims — early settlers of Plymouth Colony — held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Many regard this event as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. The Wampanoag Indians in attendance played a key role.”
Here’s an account of that first Thanksgiving taken from Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s book The Light and the Glory:
The summer of 1621 was beautiful. Much work went into the building of new dwellings, and ten men were sent north up the coast in the sailing shallop to conduct trade with the Indians. Squanto once again acted as their guide and interpreter. It was a successful trip, and that fall’s harvest provided more than enough corn to see them through their second winter. (Remember during their first winter in the New World they lost forty-seven people, nearly half their original number.)
The Pilgrims were brimming over with gratitude — not only to Squanto and the Wampanoags who had been so friendly, but to their God. In Him they had trusted, and He had honored their obedience beyond their dreams. So, Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving to be held in October. Massasoit was invited, and unexpectedly arrived a day early – with ninety Indians! Counting their numbers, the Pilgrims had to pray hard to keep from giving in to despair. To feed such a crowd would cut deeply into their food supply that was supposed to get them through the winter.
But if they had learned one thing through their travails, it was to trust God implicitly. As it turned out, the Indians were not arriving empty-handed. Massasoit had commanded his braves to hunt for the occasion, and they arrived with no less than five dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys! And they helped with the preparations, teaching the Pilgrim women how to make hoecakes, and a tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup. Finally, they showed them an Indian delicacy: how to roast corn kernels in an earthen pot until they popped, fluffy and white — popcorn!
The pilgrims in turn provided many vegetables from their household gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets and cabbages. Also, using some of their precious flour, they took summer fruits which the Indians had dried and introduced them to the likes of blueberry, apple and cherry pie. It was all washed down with sweet wine made from the wild grapes. A joyous occasion for all!
Between meals, the Pilgrims and Indians happily competed in shooting contests with gun and bow. The Indians were especially delighted that John Alden and some of the younger men of the plantation were eager to join them in foot races and wrestling. There were even military drills staged by Captain (Miles) Standish. Things went so well (and Massasoit showed no inclination to leave) that Thanksgiving Day was extended for three days.
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