Remember when we were children in school and cut Pilgrim hats out of black construction paper in honor and celebration of the first Thanksgiving. As youngsters we recreated the historical event the best we could and tried to duplicate some of the atmosphere of that cold New England winter nearly 400 years ago.
We got to know the cast of characters: Miles Standish, Priscilla Alden and Samoset. We fashioned colored paper feathers for headdresses to make us look like Squanto if we didn’t want to be Governor Bradford types.
We sang “Come Ye Thankful People Come” and “We Gather Together,” not knowing that those hymns would someday be banned from the public schools.
We talked about the harrowing journey made by brave, honest people who sought a new life based on religious freedom. The Mayflower they arrived on was probably over-booked; it was surely cramped and no one offered snacks and drinks. I’ll bet there were many weather-related delays but no actual cancellations.
We learned how the helpful Indians (who didn’t know yet that they were Native Americans) taught the Pilgrims how to farm, throwing fish in the ground long before the advent of Miracle Gro. The Indians also showed them how to hunt deer, not knowing that one day there would be such a thing as “deer season” which would limit that hunting to three weeks a year.
The first Thanksgiving probably included wild turkey (not Wild Turkey) in the big celebratory meal. Beverages didn’t include anything alcoholic unless some cider transformed itself after sitting around without pasteurization for a few unrefrigerated days.
Bet they didn’t have Pepperidge Farm stuffing, cornmeal or regular. Cranberry sauce, jellied or whole berry style, probably was a little tart unless they got a hold of some sugar: white, light or dark brown. Reportedly they had a variety of wild game and more than likely didn’t know (or care) that it was low in cholesterol.
I wonder if they had pies. Of course they would have to make them from scratch with the absence of those terrific ready-made crusts that you can get now. The pumpkins didn’t come in cans so they had to be cooked and scraped for pie duty.
The day of the big feast perhaps the Pilgrims watched, and even learned to play, Indian games of Lacrosse, although they would have been thoroughly shocked to know that one day their female descendants would play the very same game.
They could not have imagined the game of football or that people would watch that sport on a huge plasma TV (a what?) as a gas-lit blaze crackled cheerfully in the fireplace.
Supposedly there were some 90 people at that first Thanksgiving and it lasted three days. We know that when they started to run low on food, they just went back in the woods and picked off some more venison. They didn’t have freezers to provide back up of low-fat ground turkey burgers for propane-fired grills.
I’m pretty thankful for our modern conveniences with which to celebrate this day of thanks. Gotta go: there goes the beeper on the microwave.