Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thursday 13 - Thanksgiving Myths






Who knew Thanksgiving could be so controversial?! With a gobble, gobble here, and some hunting and gathering there, I’ve put together a list of 13 Thanksgiving myths for my first Thursday 13.


Myth #1: The Pilgrims wore black and white outfits, buckles, and pointed hats. Pilgrims did wear black when they went to church on Sunday, but they did not wear black for the first Thanksgiving feast. In addition, Pilgrims weren't quite as stylish as some people think because they didn't have any buckles on their shoes. Buckles didn't appear on the fashion scene until the late 17th century. Inventories from the Mayflower show that John Howland had two red waistcoats, that William Bradford had a green gown, violet cloak, lead colored suit with silver buttons, and a red waistcoat, and that William Brewster had green drawers, a red cap, and a violet coat. Black, white, grey, and brown were by far the most common colors worn by the Pilgrims, but were definitely not the only colors.

Myth #2: Thanksgiving always was in November. The Pilgrims had their first feast sometime between September 21 and November 11. The dinner lasted for three whole days! The Pilgrims probably remembered their old English harvest festivals on this special day. Since the autumn harvest usually occurred sometime between late September and the middle of October, the colonists' harvest festival wasn't celebrated in November, like it is today. For hundreds of years, people simply celebrated the harvest whenever nature was ready.

Myth #3: The Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving every year after 1621. The Pilgrims did not do a Thanksgiving dinner every year. It took a long time before it became a real holiday. Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday with his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided that the fourth Thursday in November was an excellent permanent day for this celebration.

Myth #4: The biggest meal that the Pilgrims ate was in the evening. Actually, the Pilgrims ate their biggest meal at noon, and this meal was called dinner. Another name for the noon meal was noon meat. Everyone has a different time for their Thanksgiving feast since it is usually the only meal served, and you remain stuffed for hours. The Native Americans did not have a tradition of eating scheduled meals, and instead ate whenever they were hungry.


Myth #5: The Pilgrims were celebrating a wonderful harvest. The harvest of 1621 was not very bountiful after all. However, the Pilgrims were grateful to be alive. Their wheat, barley, and peas that came over from England did not do very well. The only crop that flourished was corn. The corn crop did so well because of a generous man named Squanto. He belonged to the Patuxet tribe, but he was captured by the English. He later became a member of the Wampanoag tribe when he returned to the New World and discovered his people had all died from disease. He knew all about corn and taught the Pilgrims everything. Most of the Pilgrim's time was spent gathering, preparing or eating food. Interestingly, although there was plenty of wild game, the Pilgrims did not know how to catch it! They could not fish nor hunt. If not for the Indian corn they found and later grew, the new arrivals would have starved to death. Moreover, the guests brought most of the food. When the Pilgrims invited their Native American guests, they weren't prepared to feed everyone who came. A Wampanoag chief, Massasoit, sent his men home for supplies.


Myth #6: The Pilgrims ate turkey, cranberry, corn on the cob and pumpkin pie. The only food that historians are certain that the Pilgrims ate is deer, but they would have been accustomed to eating turkey. Foods like the ones listed today became popular because the Victorians celebrated that way. Historians say the actual Thanksgiving meal probably included: duck, goose, swans, seal, rabbit and lobster.


Myth #7: The Pilgrims were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving in America. Native Americans had been living in America for over 40,000 years before the Pilgrims arrived. Certainly, harvest celebrations had been part of their rituals. San Elizaro, Texas claims the first feast was held in 1598 to celebrate the arrival of Spanish explorer, Juan de Onate. The Berkeley Plantation in Virginia reenacts the landing and celebration of the settlers on board the Margaret in 1619, a year before The Mayflower reached Massachusetts.

Myth #8: The Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower were mostly old men. There we about 103 passengers on the Mayflower including 51 men, 22 boys, 20 women, and 11 girls. About half of them died in the first winter in the New World.

Myth #9:: The Pilgrims stole the land for their Colony from the Indians, and mistreated them. The Pilgrims arrived and found a place to settle, called Plymouth on Captain John Smith's map of 1614. The native Indians called the area Patuxet. The Patuxet tribe had been completely wiped out in a 1618 plague (probably smallpox), and so there was at the time no tribe inhabiting or claiming the land the Pilgrims settled. The only Patuxet survivor of the plague was Tisquantum, more commonly called "Squanto" (who had been in England at the time of the plague). Squanto was accepted into the Plymouth Colony and acted as interpreter and negotiator with Massasoit and the Wampanoag confederation of tribes--the Pilgrims nearest neighbors.
The Wampanoag never overtly challenged the Pilgrims' right to live on the land (until 75 years later), and in fact it appears Massasoit liked the idea of having Englishmen neighbors and allies because it increased his own power within the region by keeping his enemies at bay.

Myth #10: The Pilgrims ate with forks and ate their plates. Partly true and false. The Pilgrims used bread as plates and then ate them afterwards And while forks were widely used by the upper class in Italy during the late Middle Ages, they were not known in England until 1608, when the English writer Thomas Coryate returned from a walking tour and showed his countrymen the Italian eating implement. The English were slow to adopt the idea; as Jonathan Swift put it in 1738, "Fingers were made before forks, and hands before knives." The English considered eating with forks effeminate and regarded them as jewelry. They used their napkins to both pick up food and wipe their hands.
The Wampanoag never overtly challenged the Pilgrims' right to live on the land (until 75 years later), and in fact it appears Massasoit liked the idea of having Englishmen neighbors and allies because it increased his own power within the region by keeping his enemies at bay.

Myth #11: Children were part of the celebration. The tradition for eating in that time was for husbands to sit at the table followed by their wives and adult guests. Servants and children stood by the table to help with the meal and bring more the heated food to the guests. Children and servants ate after the adults had left the meal area and ate leftovers from the main meal.

Myth #12: The Pilgrims ate with forks and ate their plates. Partly true and false. The Pilgrims used stale bread as plates and then ate them afterwards And while forks were widely used by the upper class in Italy during the late Middle Ages, they were not known in England until 1608, when the English writer Thomas Coryate returned from a walking tour and showed his countrymen the Italian eating implement. The English were slow to adopt the idea; as Jonathan Swift put it in 1738, "Fingers were made before forks, and hands before knives." The English considered eating with forks effeminate and regarded them as jewelry.

Myth #13: The Mayflower had originally set sail for Virginia but, due to bad weather and navigational errors, landed at what is now Massachusetts. The tiny ship sighted huge breakers off of Chatham on Cape Cod, and alerted to this danger followed the coast north to the safety of what is today's Provincetown harbor before sailing across Cape Cod Bay a week later to Plymouth. At that time, most of the east coast of North America was considered Virginia and Massachusetts was merely the northern portion.

8 comments:

Sassy Lucy said...

Awesome way to jump into T13ing! Love the facts you shared, remembered teaching them to my kids years ago in our homeschooling lessons. Keep up the good work.

Patti said...

Wow! You really did your research! Great TT!!! :) Wonderfully informative!

Amy Palko said...

Somehow seal doesn't sound quite so appetizing as turkey! As we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK, I was relatively ignorant about the whole occasion. Now, thanks to your TT, I am far better informed. Welcome to TT! I've found it's a great meme to be involved in.
PS I've just noticed that this comment is going to link to my non-TT blog instead of Lives Less Ordinary.

Raggedy said...

Welcome to Thursday Thirteen!
Fascinating Post!
Yanno I think I would enjoy the addition of Lobstah on the table for Thanksgiving...
Happy TT'ing!

Mitchypoo said...

This is really interesting! Happy TT!

Julia said...

Great list, very informative and a great start in TTing as well ;)
I hope you enjoy the meme, have fun and a nice day!

Happy TT!

Greets Julia

tickledpink.nicole said...

Thanks for the warm welcome ladies! I've enjoyed checking out your blogs! What an awesome community!

Nicholas said...

That’s a very informative list. Thanksgiving isn’t known about much outside North America. I have always wondered why Thursday was picked instead of Friday. I do know that the Pilgrims set sail not from Plymouth, but from Tilbury, in not one ship but two – the Mayflower and the Speedwell. It seems they had bought a lemon, because the Speedwell was not seaworthy and they had to turn back when they were less than a hundred miles west of England. They put in at Plymouth, and everyone piled onto the Mayflower, which was a little chamber pot of a ship, and they started out westwards again on what by all accounts was a pretty miserable journey. If you read a list of what they took with them, you’ll see that the Pilgrims weren’t the sharpest knives in the box! To carve out a new living in unknown territory they took not one axe, billhook, hammer, fishing rod or saw! But they did have a three-volume history of the Ottoman Empire, so that was all right!

Nicholas

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