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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has yet again befallen us, and all around the US (and in the many parts of the world where American expats and Americanophiles happen to be tucked away) folks are likely enduring the several hours of fasting to make space for the turkey, gravy and stuffing bedecked eat-a-thon that descends right about nightfall.

Despite the enjoyment which many of us derive from the exquisite platters and the unmistakably slumbersome combo of the turkey + red wine, many Thanksgivers know frighteningly little about the origins of this quintessentially American festival.

There isn’t a historical consensus on when and where the “First Thanksgiving” transpired, as in reality the holiday derives from the generalized practice in early colonial America of celebrating a successful harvest.  However, there were two specific events that transpired (not-so-coincidentally in the US’s colonial cradles: Virginia and Massachusetts) which historians generally refer to as the earliest recorded Thanksgiving celebrations.

In 1621, the colonists at Plymouth joined their Wampanoag Native American neighbors for a grand-ol’ feast that saw various kinds of fowl, venison, and vegetables-a-plenty make the menu; it was without a doubt an occasion meriting thanksgiving, as rarely if ever had those early colonists experienced such a moment of bounty.

Earlier, in 1619 the colonists of Berkeley Plantation along the broad and gently flowing Charles River had knelt down to deliver their official “thanksgiving” for safe passage across the Atlantic; however, no record of an accompanying feast exists, and so the Plymouth occasion has remained as the “official” First Thanksgiving celebration.  (As a Virginian, I proudly remind my Massachusetts brethren of the oft-overlooked fact that Jamestown was the first English colony, not Plymouth…)

I wonder who had to work as interpreter during the feast?!