Squanto and the 1st Thanksgiving

First Thanksgiving: Three Days of Celebration

Consider that it is 1620. Following a treacherous 66 day crossing from England to Massachusetts Bay and having spent the winter on the Mayflower, you and a small party of fellow travelers move ashore to the New World where you are greeted by an Abenaki Native American – welcoming you in English!

It so happened that years earlier a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, Squanto, was captured by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. Yet, Squanto escaped captivity, ventured to London, learned the English language and returned to his homeland on an expedition. The Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and many illnesses, were taught by Squanto and members of his tribe how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees and where to fish and hunt beaver.

Sometime between September and Mid-November of 1621, according to a letter penned by Edward Winslow, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast in commemoration of the Pilgrim’s first successful corn harvest. The 3 day celebration included approximately 50 colonists including 22 men, 5 women (15 of the 20 women who left England perished during the harsh winter), over 25 children and  90 Native Americans including the greatest of the Wampanoag, King Massasoit.

Some “fun facts” about the celebration and its aftermath:

  • Turkey wasn’t on the menu at the first Thanksgiving. Venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel, and fish were likely served, alongside pumpkins and cranberries
  • Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by 1621, there were no pies, cakes or other desserts.
  • On October 3, 1789, President George Washington had issued a proclamation designating Thursday, November 26th as a National Day of Thanks.
  • Washington himself used the National Day of Thanks to contribute a large sum of money – his own money – to purchase beer and food for debtors confined in the New York City jail.
  • In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a National Day of Thanksgiving to be recognized on the last Thursday in November. Seven years later, in 1870, Congress passed legislation making Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years’ Day and Independence Day national holidays.
  • Harry Truman is often credited with being the first president to pardon a turkey, but that’s not quite true. He was the first to receive a ceremonial turkey from the National Turkey Federation – and he had it for dinner
  • John F. Kennedy was the first to let a Thanksgiving turkey go, followed by Richard Nixon who sent his turkey to a petting zoo. George H.W. Bush is the president who formalized the turkey pardoning tradition in 1989.
  • The tradition of football on Thanksgiving began in 1876 with a game between Yale and Princeton. The first NFL games were played on Thanksgiving in 1920.
  • …and last but not least, the average number of calories consumed on Thanksgiving is 4,500.

From all of us at Dixie Mechanical, we wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

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