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Thanksgiving Traditions

We all know the story of thanksgiving, right? That tired old tale of the pilgrims who landed in the new world and befriended the native Americans nearby, who taught them how to farm native foods and shared a feast with them, during which all involved gave thanks for what they had, and for the new camaraderie between the two groups.

But as pleasant as this story might sound, it’s actually…to put it not-so-delicately (but accurately!) a giant pile of lies.

In the interest of honesty and acceptance, today, Vine Vera is going to share the true, historical story of thanksgiving, and how it became a holiday in the first place.

Strange Origins
A whole six years before any pilgrims actually landed in what we now know as Massachusetts, in 1614, Englishman Thomas Hunt kidnapped the Native American Tisquantum (called “Squanto” in the modern version of the thanksgiving story, credited with teaching pilgrims to plant corn) and took him—as well as two dozen other kidnapped members of his tribe—back with him to Spain, and attempted to sell them all into slavery. The Catholic church disapproved of this notion, and actually managed to help Tisquantum escape, and somehow or another he ended up in England. Eventually, he managed to return back to his homeland, finding the passage back to modern-day Massachusetts.

Sadly, Tisquantum returned to find the rest of his village dead, at the hands of disease brought by European explorers. Right around the same time, Pilgrims showed up in the area.

Until that point, it had been common for Europeans to show up and provoke the curiosity of natives, who would come out to trade, but didn’t necessarily want them to take up permanent residency, even forcing settlers away if they stayed too long.

These pilgrims stumble upon Tisquantum’s village, now just some cleared land and bones. They attribute this to “divine providence,” or God killing the Indians because he wanted the pilgrims to live there. So they did.

Tisquantum discovers this, and rather than be outwardly upset, decides to make himself useful to the pilgrims, and taught them how to plant corn, and other ways to prepare for the winter, the pilgrims never once stopping to question why he was doing this. Come autumn, the pilgrims were secure enough that they held a feast of thanksgiving. On this day, a Native American leader showed up with around 90 men, and tried to drive them away. The pilgrim militia met this challenge by firing a bunch of warning shots, meant to intimidate but not kill. At this point, both sides put down their arms and ate together.

Much later, in 1492, Columbus shows up, and…he’s basically a terrible person and a murderer. We’re running out of space today, but the bottom line is that the simplified and friendly tale you tend to hear is quite erroneous.

Bottom Line
What’s the takeaway here? Well, two things. One, you now know the true story, and hopefully know better than to keep spreading the faulty tale we’ve all been told all too many times. The second, though, is that it doesn’t really matter all that much. Regardless of the origins of this holiday, you can choose to simply celebrate thanksgiving as a time to express gratitude and spend quality time with family; that’s reason enough, we think.