Why Should the Pilgrims Get All the Credit?


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When you think of the first Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? The Plymouth Rock Pilgrims and Native Americans, The Wampanoags, right? Guess again. According to the Smithsonian Institute Encyclopedia, there were numerous thanksgiving festivals held by Europeans long before the Pilgrim’s party in 1621, such as the one in Newfoundland on May 27, 1578. And native tribes didn’t need the Europeans to know that thanking a higher power might have its benefits, but nobody ever talks about the Green Corn Dance of the Cherokees anymore.

In fact, when the Pilgrims, who were against public displays of religion, held their first Thanksgiving with The Wampanoags in 1621, it was a secular three-day feast with eating (they did say grace before the meal), playing games and drinking (there is speculation the latter two activities were held simultaneously). Two years later, after the colony recovered from a severe drought, the Pilgrims declared another thanksgiving festival, but this one involved prayer and feasting. The Smithsonian says this particular event is likely the inspiration for the current holiday because it had religious and secular aspects.

So the Pilgrims do deserve at least a drumstick’s worth of recognition for their contributions to the holiday, but don’t forget about the Newfies, green corn, or all those poor turkeys for God’s sake.


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