by Rhonda Jimenez
Before we start making our shopping list for the XL Albert Heijn to find canned pumpkin and frozen turkey, let’s take a moment to take a closer look at our beloved holiday and its origins.
Did the first Thanksgiving happen in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts?
Actually, the first Thanksgiving in America occurred in 1541. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his expedition held a celebration of thanks in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle. Many cultures during that time celebrated the harvest with a community meal including Europeans and Native Americans.
Weren't the Pilgrims strict religious Puritans who came to the colonies to escape persecution from England?
Technically, they came from Leiden, the Netherlands. When the eventual colonists first wanted to leave the Church of England, the Dutch took them in. Back then, in England, you could be fined for attending unofficial, non-state churches. The leaders found that Amsterdam had a tolerance for their religion and provided a great opportunity for business. They later moved to the city of Leiden to take factory jobs that didn’t require knowledge of Dutch. After about 15 years, the settlers became concerned that their children were becoming too secular and feared the congregation would soon give in to the sinful vices of the Dutch. Plans to move to the New England area of the U.S. were made.
What about the Native Americans?
According to Ramona Peters, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s tribal historic preservation officer, it didn’t happen the way Americans have traditionally been taught (fake news back in the 1800s?). There was a treaty made between the natives and pilgrims and there was a meal to celebrate that treaty. The natives, ravaged by disease, needed to make an alliance as much as the newcomers needed their help to live off the land. It was more business and survival than unity and peace. It was President Abraham Lincoln who declared the first official Thanksgiving during the Civil War. He “made up the story about a feast between opposing sides joined in unity and celebration of the harvest,” said Peters. Lincoln wanted to sew a separated country back together, and created a story to inspire that spirit of unity.
But there was turkey, right?
Another well-believed misconception. Most experts believe fowl, ducks, and deer were consumed, but not turkey. Much of the traditional food found on today’s Thanksgiving table originated from the cuisine of the 1800s when the holiday began to take hold.