I guess most of us were raised with a Thanksgiving story about Indians sharing their corn, wild turkey and deer with the Plymouth colonists. The Indians wore buckskins while the colonists wore funny tall hats and brass buckle shoes. They all sat at picnic tables to eat and drink apple cider.
That’s the story that came illustrated in schoolbooks, and as reinforced by President Franklin Roosevelt’s declaration of an official Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 26.
One of the first Thanksgivings occurred with colonists from Charleston, South Carolina, on June 29, 1621. It lasted a week and included games and feasting.
In Massachusetts on Feb. 22 1630, colonists declared a fast day because they were running out of provisions. Just in time, ships were seen with welcome provisions and the colonists gave thanks.
Colonists often gave thanks for making it through another winter. George Washington proclaimed Nov. 26, 1789, as the proper day to give thanks. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, and Franklin Roosevelt declared the second to last Thursday as the official day of Thanksgiving.
By the end of November, farmers had their harvest in storage, spent time on October’s Hunter’s Moon hunting winter meat and gathering a winter’s supply of wood. It was a time for giving thanks.
I like to think of Indians and colonists breaking bread together for they often did, sharing what they had and adapting to a new world. We’ve had our share of huge Thanksgivings. One year at the other farm, 26 people from both our families gathered to share a Thanksgiving meal. All 26 of us shared the old farmhouse. Just as we were ready to put the huge turkey in the electric stove, the electricity went out under a foot of snow.
We managed to keep a fire going with some apple wood from the corn crib and cooked breakfast on a two-burner Coleman stove. It would have been impossible to cook a turkey on the two burners, though. But, well before noon, the power came on and we ate a bit late.
As a commonwealth, we’ve changed some. Now, much of deer season occurs after Thanksgiving, but some hunt with bows and arrows before. Some hunt bears before Thanksgiving, but few hunters who kill a bear butcher it themselves. Butchering a bear is as much work as butchering hogs, especially if the hunter chooses to render the fat and grind sausage. Mostly today we take our wild animals to a butcher instead of doing it ourselves.
We should celebrate Thanksgiving even if there were no brass buckle shoes and blunderbusses to shoot the wild game.