Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The First Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction?

Think you know everything there is to know about Thanksgiving and its traditions? What about the first Thanksgiving—was it really an event that we have seen depicted in paintings and school textbooks? Probably not. Americans have adapted and changed the celebratory holiday even further from the “traditional” Thanksgiving to fit their own preferences. These can include gathering with family and reminiscing on all the things their thankful for, running a turkey trot race, watching football, or even eating Mexican food.  However you celebrate Thanksgiving, you can learn the truth behind the myths associated with the first Thanksgiving. We’ve provided a few below!

Myth #1 The Pilgrims dressed in black and white, wore pointy hats and bonnets, and had gold square belt and shoe buckles.
No one really knows where we got this image from. Although the Pilgrims wore black on Sundays, they wore other colors every other day. These included green, white, gray, and brown. Another false image America has produced is the attire of the Native Americans. They covered up a lot more than what America depicts in its Thanksgiving décor. It was freezing cold in the Northeast during the fall—they were fully covered!

Myth #2 The first Thanksgiving meal was served on a big, long table on many large serving dishes.
The first Thanksgiving “meal” was not a sit-down occasion. It was a celebration that lasted over the course of 3-4 days. The food was eaten sporadically; whenever someone was hungry. It wasn’t on a long table eaten with plates and forks either—they didn’t have forks. The food was placed on any flat surface available, and diners grabbed what they wanted and ate with their hands.

Myth #3 The Pilgrims and Indians ate Turkey on the first Thanksgiving.
There probably aren’t too many people who still eat what was eaten at the first Thanksgiving. Although it’s possible they could have eaten Turkey on the first Thanksgiving, there is no evidence to support it. The only thing historians know for sure they ate was “venison and wild fowl.” It is quite possible there was dried fruit and corn there as well. But there were no potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey, dressing, or pumpkin pie, that’s for sure!

Myth #4 The Pilgrims and Puritans were the same thing.
They most definitely were not the same thing. The Pilgrims came on the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth. They came in search of riches, a utopian land, as well as for religious reasons. A decade later, the Puritans came and lived in Boston. The Puritans came solely to be able to practice their religion freely. They believed there was hope in church reform, unlike the Pilgrims. They both share in common their hate for the Church of England.

Myth #5 Thanksgiving was about family.
The first thanksgiving was not a family affair. It was a multicultural gathering. All that is recorded is by the Plymouth Colony Governor, Edward Winslow, who wrote that the colony had dinner with Chief Massasoit and 90 of his men.

To read more on these popular Thanksgiving myths, check out the Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day Myths on the History News Network website.
Happy Thanksgiving from TAMU Press!
--Madeline Loving

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