Thanksgiving now and then, same but different
The Thanksgiving we celebrate today may be more like the original one than you think, at least for some of us.
The three-day feast the early Pilgrims shared with the Wampanoag Indians back in 1621 is something I would have loved to experience. I could have done without the long ocean journey and monumental struggle for survival during the first winter, but you never know about the future.
There are those among us for whom tomorrow’s holiday is darkened by the clouds of hunger, death and even hopelessness. Keep them, and all the needy, in your thoughts and your actions this Thanksgiving.
Back then, people of entirely different cultures, beliefs and manner of dress sat down at the same table together. Since then, Thanksgiving has evolved into a more or less close knit family affair. Of course, for many of us, that sounds a lot like having to sit down with people of entirely different cultures, beliefs and manner of dress. Don’t be surprised to find, when you go home for Thanksgiving this year, that the person sitting next to you with feathers in his hair, covered with body paint and with large rings in his ears and nose and various other body parts is your new brother-in-law.
And remember, it’s probably a good idea to seriously avoid talking religion and politics. That’s usually the first thing to ruin a good turkey dinner, next to alcohol.
You will hear enough strange languages during Thanksgiving dinner this year from your own flesh and blood. Don’t make things any more complicated by bringing up same sex marriage.
Less than half of the original 102 people who sailed over on the Mayflower lived to see spring in the new land. Strained relations with nearby Indians kept them in constant fear and cast serious doubt on the success of their plans to make a new life for themselves. On top of that, they found it very difficult to grow food. Things didn’t look so good for the pilgrims.
Hopefully your guests have not experienced similar difficulties in their travels. Fortunately, the pilgrims were led by very determined and capable men. Miles Standish was brought along as military leader of the group and became one of the original founders of Duxbury, Massachusetts.
Have a good referee at your table, preferably unarmed.
William Brewster, religious elder of the so-called “separatists” from the Church of England, moved them to Holland where they found some degree of religious tolerance until they were eventually betrayed by the Dutch because Brewster had been publishing books banned by King James I of England.
Their eventual escape to America took three years to plan. I hope your holiday goes a lot smoother.
Edward Winslow and William Bradford saved the colony by negotiating mutually beneficial treaties with the Indians. Hopefully you don’t have to get anything in writing to have a good time tomorrow.
The kindness of a single Indian, Squanto, may have been the main reason the Pilgrims of the Mayflower survived. None of their efforts would have been successful without him. Squanto had traveled across the Atlantic four times, the second time as a slave. He escaped and came to live with the Wampanoag Indians because his own people had been completely wiped out by disease brought over by earlier Europeans. Check everybody at the door.
While in Europe the first time, Squanto lived in a Catholic monastery where he learned to speak English. When he walked into the Pilgrims’ camp one day and said “Hello” they were stunned, and their fortunes took a turn for the better.
The monks taught Squanto well, and not just English. They taught him kindness. May your Thanksgiving be filled with it. Happy Thanksgiving.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, experienced ski instructor and commercial driver. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 25 years.