In Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with a three day feast and invited members of the Wampanoag tribe; however, there was no turkey on the table, no pumpkin pie, no cranberry sauce, no mashed potatoes. In fact, what we were taught in grade school about the first Thanksgiving was, for the most part, incorrect. Thus, each November, the schoolboys commemorating Thanksgiving wearing black cardboard hats with gold buckles, and the schoolgirls in black dresses with stiff white collars and bonnets, are paying homage to Hollywood’s version of Plimoth Plantation (yes, Plimoth).
Contrary to popular belief, women in Plymouth were not restricted to wearing black; their wardrobes consisted of many bright colors (violet, blue, red, gray, green). Occasionally, women wore lace collars and cuffs; their hair was pulled back and covered. Men, too, donned lace collars and cuffs and tied their knee-high stockings with ribbons known as garters. Boys and girls, until approximately eight years of age, wore gowns with full skirts, high necklines, and long sleeves. Adolescents wore clothing similar to their adult counterparts.
Our traditional Thanksgiving fare differs from the Pilgrims’ menu. While we stuff ourselves with turkey, the Pilgrims likely feasted on roast duck or goose, venison, lobster, clams, and mussels. Corn on the cob was not on the menu in 1621; the only corn available in autumn was dried corn, which was mashed into a cornmeal mush known as “samp”. The remainder of the meal included chestnuts, walnuts, squash, carrots, peas, and raw cranberries. Our much touted pumpkin pie was not enjoyed by pilgrims, who did not have baking ovens. Contrary to the image of the American woman slaving in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving feast was likely prepared mostly by men; only five women had survived the preceding brutal winter in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The facts we were taught about the first Thanksgiving were misleading, inaccurate, fake, much like our news today! When we gather this year to give thanks, let’s remember what is of the utmost importance in our present society: truth, based in indisputable, undiluted fact. I present a basic example for your consideration. Fact: a pumpkin is a large fruit, a member of the gourd family, with a thick rind, edible seeds, and flesh. It is not an orange ball, nor is it David S. Pumpkins, or Cinderella’s coach, no matter who says otherwise. Such flights of fancy are alternative facts.
A little something to chew on this Thanksgiving: In the words of the late John F. Kennedy, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”
A blessed, true Thanksgiving to all of you.