Share This Episode
Our American Stories Lee Habeeb Logo

The First Thanksgiving: The Real Story

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 24, 2022 3:00 am

The First Thanksgiving: The Real Story

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 648 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.


November 24, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Thanksgiving is the only American holiday that has actually remained relatively innocent—it’s not something that we have been able to commercialize. But there’s something going on here more than feasting, family, and football. Robert Tracy McKenzie is a professor of history at Wheaton College and is the author of The First Thanksgiving. He’s here to tell us the story of this quintessentially American holiday.

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Passing the ball is fun. The Frito-Lay Pass the Ball Challenge is more fun. Join Frito-Lay, the official USA snack of the FIFA World Cup 2022, for their Pass the Ball Challenge. Look for the Golden World Soccer Ball and explore the ever-growing community. Then, pass the ball to friends for a chance to score custom swag.

Grab a specially marked bag of Leis, Cheetos or Doritos and scan the QR code or visit FritoLayScore.com. Everything is more expensive these days. With inflation rising, Medicare beneficiaries living on a fixed income are concerned about increasing costs. Make your Medicare dollars go further by picking the right plan. Start by looking for a plan that gives you more. For example, many Medicare Advantage plans include dental, vision and hearing benefits. While original Medicare doesn't, learn more about plan costs beyond premiums, such as deductibles, co-pays and drug coverage. Find that right plan for you.

Visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories. In this show, we celebrate Thanksgiving. And it's the only American holiday that's actually remained relatively innocent.

It's not something that we've been able to commercialize. But there is something going on here that's more than just feasting, family and football. Robert Tracy McKenzie is a professor of history at Wheaton College. He's also the author of The First Thanksgiving. He's here to tell us the story of this quintessentially American holiday.

Let's take a listen. The story of the pilgrims in the first Thanksgiving in many respects is one chapter in a much, much larger story, a story that is grounded in an enormous phenomenon that we remember as the Protestant Reformation. In the early years of the fifteen hundreds, individuals like Martin Luther, the German theologian and monk, had begun to work toward reforming the Catholic Church, changing some of its theological teachings, some of its church practices, some of its governing structure. And Luther found that that was essentially impossible to accomplish within the confines of the Catholic Church, ultimately leading to a break with the Catholic Church in 1517.

On Halloween evening, Luther famously put up his ninety five theses, his ninety five statements of protest about Catholic teaching. This caused his relationship with the pope, with the Catholic hierarchy to deteriorate pretty rapidly, leading ultimately to the pope declaring Luther heretic in 1520 and prompting Luther ultimately to break with the Catholic Church, to establish an independent church, a protesting church. And so Protestantism was born. The Protestant Reformation reaches England maybe a generation later during the reign of King Henry VIII. And ultimately, Henry himself also breaks with the Catholic Church and establishes an independent church of England, a church we often remember as the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church in many respects, though still retained a lot of the teaching, a lot of the practices, a lot of the hierarchy of Catholicism. So within England, there is a core group of English Christians who begin to work to purify the Church of England of its Catholic remnants. And they begin to be referred to often quite sarcastically and critically as Protestants. The group that's gathering at Scrooby by about 1600 or so is actually best thought of as a radical kind of subset of English Protestants. These are individuals who come to be known as separatists. The separatists basically not only believe that the Anglican Church needed reformation, they'd actually arrived at the conclusion that the Anglican Church was not a true church, that it was so far in divergence from what they believed was the true requirements of Scripture, that they really couldn't in good conscience associate or worship with Anglicans.

They had to withdraw. They had to separate from the Anglican Church. And so we need to understand then this core group is the most radical of the most radical protesting Christians. In separating from the Anglican Church, they're actually defying the established Church of England.

They're actually defying the monarchy of England. And so in a certain sense, they are considered in many respects outlaws against both church and state. This group ultimately is going to face some persecution in Scrooby. We can exaggerate it, but we know that one member of the congregation was in fact thrown into prison. Three other leaders of the congregation were under suspicion. There were warrants out for their arrest and they actually go into hiding.

And ultimately it led to the conclusion that this group was simply not going to be allowed to worship separately, worship faithfully as they understood it. And so they decided that they would have no alternative but to leave England. Now, when we remember the pilgrim story, one of the ways that we remember it incorrectly, I think it's really important to go back and recapture this truth, is that pilgrims don't leave England directly for New England. They don't leave Scrooby and head for North America. There's in fact an intermediate step in their migration. They actually go not to North America but to Holland. And so they're able to get out of the country.

It's a complicated and dangerous undertaking. But around the year 1608, they make their way to Holland, settling first of all in Amsterdam where they stay for a matter of months, and then finally relocating about 30 miles to the southwest to the town of Leiden. And it's Leiden where they reside for the next 12 years. And it's from Leiden that they migrate to North America in 1620. We have to understand that Leiden was, although smaller than Amsterdam, it was still a large city for its day.

It had a population of about 40,000. These were individuals who had migrated from a tiny rural agricultural village in England, and they found themselves in a vibrant, growing, industrializing city. It was foreign in many, many ways. You know, we sometimes talk about how the pilgrims came to a new world when they migrated to North America, but in a real sense they were going to a new world when they migrated to Holland. It was so foreign from what they knew, so different that it's hard for us to exaggerate the challenge. So now rural people were living in a large city. Farm folk were having to earn their living in industrial settings as employees in a textile manufacturing line of work.

And it was hard. And yet one of the important things that they would have stressed is that they experienced a great deal of religious freedom. Leiden in Holland generally was known for its religious toleration. It was religiously diverse.

But there were problems, starting with the economic challenges, and they began to worry about the future of their congregation. And you've been listening to Robert Tracy McKenzie tell the story of the pilgrims, their trek from England to Holland to the city of Leiden, and a very different kind of environment that they'd never experienced before, and soon to be coming to the new world, a very new world. The story of the pilgrims, as told by Robert Tracy McKenzie, continues here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

That's OurAmericanStories.com. Okay, so you never became a professional soccer star, but you could still show out during the FIFA World Cup 2022 with cool soccer swag from your friends at Frito-Lay. Frito-Lay, the official USA snack of the FIFA World Cup 2022, is giving you the chance to win custom swag and amazing prizes by joining their Pass the Ball Challenge.

It's easy. Just grab a specially marked bag of Leis, Cheetos, or Doritos, scan the QR code, and look for the Golden World Soccer Ball. You can explore the ever-growing Golden Ball community and even find friends on the ball. Then pass the ball to fellow soccer fans and play daily games for a chance to score custom swag like limited edition jerseys, duffel bags, scarves, and balls. The Frito-Lay Pass the Ball Challenge. Visit FritoLayScore.com or scan the QR code on specially marked bags of Leis, Cheetos, or Doritos to pass the ball, and you could win amazing Frito-Lay prizes. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residence at the USDC.

18 plus C rules at FritoLayScore.com. The inside of an infinity is a space to find your own way. Here, you are greeted by a luxuriously spacious interior that allows you to express any thoughts you are holding in. Even on the road to chasing waterfalls, the intuitively connected interior of the infinity makes sure your conversations never fall on deaf ears, where your voice is heard, and things that need to be said are said confidently, transporting you to a place where you can let your emotions reign free, sing along to the soundtrack of your adventures, and just focus on being yourself. So no matter where the road takes you and who you take along for the ride, infinity makes sure that you get there and the luxury that makes you feel... infinitely you.

Visit InfinityUSA.com to find out more. Hey guys! Want to know how to be the best gift-giver this holiday season? Spring for something unexpected like beauty from Estée Lauder. Surprise her with a fresh floral fragrance like Estée Lauder's best-selling beautiful Magnolia, a romantic scent with hints of warm woods and luminous musk, or wrap them in luxurious feel-good skincare. Estée Lauder's Advanced Night Repair Serum is a one-and-done favorite that offers seven skincare treatments in one bottle.

That's right, seven benefits including line reduction, firmness, even tone, strengthening hydration, antioxidants, and instant radiance. Estée Lauder has something for every beauty lover on your list, plus free gift wrapping and free shipping. Experience the holiday collection today. And we continue with our American stories and with Robert Tracy McKenzie.

He's a professor of history at Wheaton College, and he is also the author of The First Thanksgiving. Let's pick up with the story of the Pilgrims and their arrival in Leiden. Some of the adults were thinking about returning to England. Even with its restrictions on religious liberty, they thought, well, at least we'll be able to eat there.

At least we won't starve there. They found it a hard place to raise their children. This is, in Bradford's word, a licentious culture, a culture that really doesn't have the same moral standards.

They're lax in the way that they train their children. They're critical of the Pilgrim parents as being too stern in their child-rearing practices, and that bothers them as well. And it's in that context that they began to consider looking for a new home, not in Europe, but in fact across the Atlantic Ocean in North America. You know, it's very common, I think, for us to hear someone, in referring to the Pilgrims, to say that they came to this country in search of religious freedom. Now, the reality is, what they are struggling with, really, is the cares of this world.

It's kind of daily challenges that so many of us face, that so many of us can relate to. Because even though they are motivated by those kinds of economic concerns and family concerns, all of their motivation, in some way, connects back to their deep commitment, not just to their families, but to their church. And so their decision to migrate is not a decision made by a bunch of individuals who happen to leave simultaneously.

It is a congregational decision. They are basically deciding, as a group, that the only way they're going to be able to stay together is if they find together a new home. The voyage of the Mayflower is something that William Bradford, who wrote the main history of the Pilgrims, William Bradford only talks about it in about a page and a half, and he doesn't share a lot of details, but we do know that it was an arduous, and in many ways, a terrifying experience for them. To begin with, they hadn't been able to leave England. They went from Holland back to England en route to North America. They hadn't been able to leave England nearly as early in the calendar year as they had hoped. And then when they finally were in position to leave, one of the ships, they had hoped to take two ships, one of the ships immediately begins to take on water, and they have to return for repairs, and that happens not once but twice before they finally have to just give up on the idea that the second ship, called the Speedwell, would be able to accompany them. All of which to say, then, they actually don't leave England for good until September the 6th in the year 1620, and their voyage will take 65 days. And so if you do the math, you get out to an average of just at 2 miles per hour for 65 days. Because of the bad weather, it would have been almost certain that they would remain below decks for the entire voyage or almost for the entire voyage. It was an area that was not tall enough to stand up in, and for 65 days, they're in an area that was about the size of a good-sized city bus.

And in that space, 102 pilgrim passengers. So as the pilgrims were preparing to leave from Leiden, it's probably good for us just to stop for a moment and in our mind's eye try to imagine that parting. If you're William Bradford, for example, he's leaving a 3-year-old son behind just because it's not possible. He just doesn't think it's possible for his son to survive early on.

He hopes that his son would join him afterward. And those kinds of goodbyes were being said repeatedly. And the way that Bradford describes the departure in his history is very touching.

He really tells us that tears were flowing like water. But that, and here is the passage that I love so much, that they comforted themselves with what they believed to be true. And what they believed to be true, among other things, was that this world was not their home. As he put it in his history, they reminded themselves that they were pilgrims.

You know, that's the label that we use for this group, that we use so much that it loses all of its meaning, all of its power. But in saying they knew that they were pilgrims, he's almost certainly quoting from the 13th chapter of the book of Hebrews in the Christian New Testament where the author says that various heroes of the Christian faith knew that they were pilgrims, that the world was not their home. And Bradford is saying that they found comfort in reminding themselves of that truth. They were temporary sojourners in this land.

Their ultimate hope lay elsewhere. So they knew that they were pilgrims. One of the things about this that really is, I think, miraculous is that there was only one fatality among the 102 pilgrim passengers on board the Mayflower.

This was not really at all to be expected. There had been a voyage of Puritans actually just the year before to Virginia to resettle there and a passenger list that had 180 individuals on it found that by the end of that voyage 130 had died. And so surviving the voyage almost without loss of life was pretty amazing. So they arrive on the coast of New England in early November, actually the 9th of November specifically, but they're considerably north of where they had expected to land. They had entered into an agreement with a corporation that had been authorized by the King of England to settle what is today the area of Virginia, the Carolinas, Maryland, on up to basically to Hudson River. But they landed considerably north of that, actually off the coast of Cape Cod. And so their first response is, well, we have to turn south. We have to go to the area where we've been authorized to settle and they tried to do that. But the area there around Cape Cod is really treacherous for navigation. And the captain, Captain Reynolds, tells them that this is not going to happen. This is too dangerous.

We're not going to undertake this. And it's on the 23rd of December, according to their records, 23rd of December in the year 1620, that they go ashore on the site of what we know today as the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The area actually had been the site of a Native American village, a village inhabited by a tribe called the Patuxent. But the Patuxent had been devastated by disease sometime probably not too long before 1620, certainly after 1615, so fairly recently. The Patuxent had been literally wiped out. Historians are not sure what the disease was.

It may have been viral hepatitis. So where the pilgrims land is sort of like a ghost village in essence. They're arriving right at the onset of a bitter New England winter. And if I could just say this parenthetically, this really surprises them. They know that they're going to be late in the year, but they really were not expecting such severe weather.

And you might think, why in the world not? If you look at a map, you'll actually find that in terms of latitude, present-day Massachusetts is pretty much on the same line of latitude as Madrid, Spain. So the pilgrims are actually traveling substantially south, about 600 miles south of London. And so they're actually expecting a temperate climate. Even as late as 1622, a couple years later, one pamphlet that's advertising the settlement is saying that it's going to be sort of like a garden spot.

This is going to be sort of like a place in the Riviera. And what they get, of course, is very, very different. So the next few months are just awful. One historian would later call this the starving time. And that actually is a misunderstanding, I think, of what was going on. They actually have enough food to avoid starvation. What they don't have is shelter. And so they mostly live on board the Mayflower.

But every day when they want to work trying to build these structures, they have to find a way to get to shore. And you're listening to our Thanksgiving special, and you're listening to Robert Tracy McKenzie tell the story of the pilgrims. And we learn that they were enlightened, and they had religious freedom there. But the cultural influences of the big city just didn't match up with the interests of the pilgrims and how they wanted to raise their family. And so the congregation decides to head, well, to head to America. And by the way, what a surprise to find out, though they sailed 600 miles south, the brutal winters of New England were not to be expected.

When we come back, more of this remarkable story, the pilgrims' story, the story of Thanksgiving, is a part of our Thanksgiving special here on Our American Stories. Passing the ball is fun. The Frito-Lay Pass the Ball Challenge is more fun. Frito-Lay, the official USA snack of the FIFA World Cup 2022, is giving you the chance to win custom soccer swag and amazing prizes by joining their Pass the Ball Challenge. To enter, just scan the QR code on specially marked bags of Leis, Cheetos, and Doritos and look for the Golden World Soccer Ball. Be part of history by adding your picture to the Golden Ball. Explore the ever-growing soccer community, find friends on the ball, and receive a one-of-a-kind collectible NFT.

Then pass the ball to fellow soccer fans and play daily games for a chance to score custom swag like limited-edition jerseys, duffel bags, scarfs, and balls. Grab a specially marked bag of Leis, Cheetos, or Doritos or visit FritoLayScore.com now to join the Pass the Ball Challenge. And you can win amazing Frito-Lay prizes. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of 50 U.S.D.C.

rules at FritoLayScore.com. The inside of an Infiniti is a space to find your own way. Here, you are greeted by a luxuriously spacious interior that allows you to express any thoughts you are holding in. Even on the road to chasing waterfalls, the intuitively connected interior of the Infiniti makes sure your conversations never fall on deaf ears, where your voice is heard, and things that need to be said are said confidently, transporting you to a place where you can let your emotions reign free, sing along to the soundtrack of your adventures, and just focus on being yourself. So no matter where the road takes you and who you take along for the ride, Infiniti makes sure that you get there and the luxury that makes you feel Infiniti-ly you.

Visit InfinitiUSA.com to find out more. Hey, guys! Want to know how to be the best gift-giver this holiday season? Spring for something unexpected like beauty from Estee Lauder. Surprise her with a fresh floral fragrance like Estee Lauder's best-selling beautiful Magnolia, a romantic scent with hints of warm woods and luminous musk, or wrap them in luxurious feel-good skincare. Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair Serum is a one-and-done favorite that offers seven skincare treatments in one bottle.

That's right, seven benefits, including line reduction, firmness, even tone, strengthening hydration, antioxidants, and instant radiance. Estee Lauder has something for every beauty lover on your list, plus free gift wrapping and free shipping. Experience the holiday collection today. And we continue with our American stories and with Robert Tracy McKenzie telling the story of the first Thanksgiving.

Let's pick up where we last left off. The Mayflower had come with a long boat. They expected to use this boat for fishing, but they had had to disassemble the boat to fit it into the hold, and it had been damaged en route, so it took quite a while to repair that boat. So for actually several weeks, the adults who would go ashore to work would have to wade through the frigid water in December and January in Massachusetts, and not just a short space.

Because the harbor was so shallow, the Mayflower is anchored probably between three-quarters of a mile and a mile from shore. So the first thing they'll do every day is to wade through this icy water up to their chests for three-quarters of a mile or more. And then the last thing they'll do after having worked all day is to repeat the journey in the opposite direction.

And so you can imagine. The real theory, I think the more likely theory, is that they will die in droves from pneumonia so that by spring, of the 102 passengers originally on the Mayflower, 52 have died. And every family is affected. There were 26 different family groups among the passengers, and only four were spared from at least one death. So 22 of the families had at least one family member die. There were 18 married couples on the Mayflower, and 14 have one of the two partners die. And much to, I think, our amazement, it ought to amaze us, when the weather allows the Mayflower to return to England in the spring of 1621, the survivors are given the opportunity to return to England, and they refuse.

And now they are needing to be wholly absorbed in the work of completing their settlement, planting crops, and hopefully preparing for their survival during the next winter to come. It's in this context that they have really their first significant encounter with Native American peoples in the area. And in the spring of 1621, they actually are visited on two occasions by Native American visitors, two different individuals, who actually are able to speak English, and they're floored by that. The better known of these two was a Native American man named Squanto.

His full name was Tisquantum. Squanto's story is very fascinating. He had actually learned English because he had been kidnapped by European fishermen some time before the great epidemic struck his tribal community. He had been kidnapped and taken to Spain, where actually his freedom, after a time, was purchased by some Spanish monks, who facilitated his escape to England. There he worked for a time as a servant to an English sea captain, ultimately is able to get passage on a ship back to North America and make his way overland to Patuxent to what is now Plymouth, where to his great horror, he finds that all of his people have now been victims of the epidemic. He was made a prisoner of another Native American tribe that was in the area, and this was the Wampanoag tribe. The Wampanoag had also been devastated by disease, though not wiped out, and they're the peoples that will ultimately interact most intimately with the pilgrims in the immediate months and years to come. There are a variety of ways that they help the pilgrims, and some of these details you probably have heard from your childhood. One of the things that the Wampanoag will do is to help the pilgrims master a form of agriculture that's really appropriate for the terrain and the climate of the area.

And so these kinds of sort of life hacks, we would say today, are things that the Wampanoag teach to the pilgrims that surely were very central to their survival. And so that leads to a cause for celebration in the fall of 1621. The sum total of evidence that we have about the event that we call the First Thanksgiving comes from a letter that was written by one of the pilgrims, a man named Edward Winslow, and he writes this letter toward the end of 1621 when there's an opportunity to send it back to England with a ship that is passing by. And in this letter, he describes what has occurred in sum total of four sentences which add up to 115 words. He basically says that with the harvest being in, their governor, William Bradford, basically said, and I'm paraphrasing here, said, let's celebrate. And so Bradford sends four men from the community out into the woods to hunt for fowl, for birds. As they were celebrating, according to Winslow, the Indians, as he says, many of the Indians came among us and for three days they entertained them and feasted together. So this is the sum total of what we actually know, 115 words and four sentences.

And let's think about it for just a moment. Actually, it doesn't tell us much about if there's a reference to fowl, but it doesn't say turkey, by the way. The pilgrim records that survive talk about swans and geese and herons and cranes and ducks. And so probably the main menu at the gathering would have been these kinds of delicacies. We also don't have any reference to candied yams or to pumpkin pie or to any things that we associate with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

There's good reason for that. The pilgrims didn't have ovens. Pretty much everything that they would have been able to fix at this time would have been boiled or roasted. They didn't have sugar.

They didn't have flour for pie crusts. The reality is that they probably are eating lots of waterfowl. They're probably eating what they would have called sauce, which basically means fixings or trimmings, like turnips and parsnips and cabbage and collard greens. I often joke quite possible that they had turnips and eels. In fact, it's more likely that they had turnips and eels than that they had turkey and dressing.

The one other thing on the menu that we want to call attention to is venison. And this is in that four sentence account from Edward Winslow. We're told that the Native American people who came brought with them five deer, which leads us to think a little bit about the presence of the Native Americans there. One of the things that's not in the historical record that we often assume is in the historical record is the idea that the pilgrims actually invited the Wampanoag to be a part of their celebration. And Winslow doesn't say that.

His language is much more oblique than that. It says Indians came among us. And so it's at least possible that they were unexpected guests. And we do know that the Wampanoag did from time to time come into the pilgrim settlement and often did expect to stay for some period of time and often did expect to enjoy some of the pilgrim's store of food.

And so it wouldn't have been the first time. The fact is the pilgrims and the Wampanoag were able to survive as different as they were. They were able to benefit one another. They avoided war. And these are wonderful kinds of things to call attention to. The account from Winslow says that the pilgrims exercised their arms.

That's his wording. Which basically means they got out their guns and they sort of went through military drill. And we might imagine sort of both sides in different ways trying to demonstrate their prowess.

Trying to make sure that the other side knew that they were not to be trifled with. And you're listening to Robert Tracy McKenzie tell the story of the first Thanksgiving and so much more, including the story of the pilgrims. My goodness, that passage from the Mayflower, 52 passengers died. 22 of the families lost at least one family member. And not being prepared for that brutal winter.

My goodness. And then to learn that they had to walk a mile each way back to the Mayflower where they had to reside. And if you've ever been in New England waters, I grew up in New Jersey, you can't know just how bitter cold it is even in March. But the winter, it's quite remarkable.

And anytime you're complaining about cold water or about your life, think about the story of the pilgrims and what they endured for the love of their God and for the love of their church and their families. When we come back, more of this remarkable American story, the first Thanksgiving, here on Our American Stories. Okay, so you never became a professional soccer star, but you could still show out during the FIFA World Cup 2022 with cool soccer swag from your friends at Frito-Lay. Frito-Lay, the official USA snack of the FIFA World Cup 2022 is giving you the chance to win custom swag and amazing prizes by joining their pass the ball challenge. Just grab a specially marked bag of Lay's, Cheetos or Doritos, scan the QR code and look for the Golden World Soccer Ball. Be part of history by adding your picture to the Golden Ball. Explore the ever-growing soccer community, find friends on the ball and receive a one-of-a-kind collectible NFT. Then, pass the ball to fellow soccer fans and play daily games for a chance to score custom swag like limited edition jerseys, duffel bags, scarves and balls.

Visit FritoLayScore.com or scan the QR code on specially marked bags of Lay's, Cheetos or Doritos to pass the ball. And you could win amazing FritoLay prizes. The inside of an infinity is a space to find your own way. Here you are greeted by a luxuriously spacious interior that allows you to express any thoughts you are holding in. Even on the road to chasing waterfalls the intuitively connected interior of the infinity makes sure your conversations never fall on deaf ears. Where your voice is heard and things that need to be said are said confidently. Transporting you to a place where you can let your emotions reign free. Sing along to the soundtrack of your adventures and just focus on being yourself. So, no matter where the road takes you and who you take along for the ride, infinity makes sure that you get there and the luxury that makes you feel infinitely you.

Visit InfinityUSA.com to find out more. Hey guys, want to know how to be the best gift giver this holiday season? Spring for something unexpected like beauty from Estee Lauder. Surprise her with a fresh floral fragrance like Estee Lauder's best selling beautiful magnolia, a romantic scent with hints of warm woods and luminous musk or wrap them in luxurious feel good skin care. Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair Serum is a one and done favorite that offers seven skin care treatments in one bottle.

That's right, seven benefits including line reduction, firmness, even tone, strengthening hydration, antioxidants and instant radiance. Estee Lauder has something for every beauty lover on your list, plus free gift wrapping and free shipping. Experience the holiday collection today. And we continue here with our American stories and with Robert Tracy Mackenzie who's a professor of history at Wheaton College. He's also the author of The First Thanksgiving.

Let's pick up where we last left off. The account from Winslow says that King Massasoit, who is the leader of the Wampanoag tribe, brought with him about 90 men. And then let's think about the pilgrims themselves. 50 survivors, overwhelmingly male because females have died in greater proportions than males. There are about five males for every female among the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. Our estimate is that by the end of all those deaths in the winter there was maybe only one pilgrim over 40 years old.

The governor of the colony, William Bradford, is 30. Just one other thought as you see them in your mind's eye. Evidence from the time suggests that they had not yet built much in the way of furniture. They certainly would not have had lots of long tables.

You always see the pictures of the long tables set up outside. They didn't have forks at all. Forks were a relatively recent innovation in England and it was often thought very pretentious.

To use a fork was a sign that you were a fop. And so they would have had knives and spoons. They would have almost certainly been sitting on the ground. They're not only young, they're colorful. You know, the standard stereotype which actually dates to the late 1800s shows pilgrims aren't wearing all black, really tall hats. They have buckles on every sort of part of their clothing. But the records from the colony of the property of people when they die suggest that their clothes were bright colors.

Governor William Bradford has a red cape and a purple vest. The pilgrims actually thought of Thanksgiving as a very solemn holy day. So we use the word holiday, which really is an elision of holy day. And it's very unlikely that what we remember as the first Thanksgiving is actually something that they would have called a thanksgiving. They believe that the Bible authorized God's people to declare these special kinds of holy celebrations in response to some extraordinary circumstance. But when that happened they anticipated gatherings that would have been solemn, that would have been centered on lengthy preaching, prayer and singing, not on feasting, certainly not on games, not on military drill. And so what they're doing at this gathering in the fall of 1621 is they're having just a kind of harvest celebration that they would have known from their youth in rural England. A good question that comes to mind is just why is it that we attach such significance to the pilgrim celebration of 1621?

And I think there's probably a variety of answers but I have a theory that I'd like to share with you. It has to do with when Americans actually discovered this event. And that may strike you as odd even to put it that way, but the reality is the American people didn't remember this gathering for a very long time, actually for more than two centuries after it occurred. The main description of it, as I've mentioned, was in a letter that was written and taken back to England. It was actually published in England as part of a pamphlet, but then it gradually sort of went out of circulation and there was just no historical record of this event. But a copy of the pamphlet is not actually discovered in North America until the 1820s, until two centuries after the first Thanksgiving.

It's discovered by a sort of amateur historian who's a minister in New England and he actually includes it in a history that he is writing about the origins of New England and includes it in a book that was published in the year 1841, 220 years after the event. And in this book he tells his readers when he repeats the description by Edward Winslow, and here is the first Thanksgiving that ever occurred in New England. By the 1840s, New England had come to celebrate Thanksgiving every fall. It had become a really sort of treasured tradition. Thanksgiving actually wasn't celebrated in the South. It wasn't celebrated in much of the western United States. It was a New England holiday, but it was a cherished New England holiday. And then this minister in 1841 tells New Englanders, and here is where it all started. This was the origin of the celebration. And so all of a sudden, individuals have discovered, they believe, the source of their tradition, and pretty quickly they begin to emphasize it as one of those sort of seminal moments in the early history of the country. As late then as the 1840s, Thanksgiving is still pretty much a regional holiday.

It does get a boost about 20 years later during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States during this period, of course, is being lobbied by a female writer named Sarah Josepha Hale, who is an editor of a prominent ladies' magazine. And she's contacting Lincoln every fall and saying, you need to declare this as a national holiday. And the way that Hale makes her case is to say that all of the holidays at that point that were recognized nationally, they were for men. And there were really just two holidays, national holidays at the time. One was the 4th of July. She thought of that as a male holiday. The other was George Washington's birthday.

And that would also have been a time predominantly where men gathered together, where there were speeches and so forth. And she thought that Thanksgiving is the perfect woman's holiday. It was a domestic holiday.

It centered around entertainment within the home, centered around a fine meal and so forth. And so she keeps lobbying Lincoln. And in 1863, Lincoln finally relents, and he issues a proclamation in the fall of that year calling for Thanksgiving toward the end of November of 1863. He actually repeats that in a subsequent proclamation in the fall of 1864. And then, of course, he is assassinated in early 1865. But what Lincoln has done is to establish a precedent.

And from that point on, presidents would issue a national proclamation declaring a day of Thanksgiving, usually on the 4th or the final Thursday of the month. One other question we might want to think about before we conclude is what happens to the Plymouth Colony after all of this is over? Bradford lives into the 1650s. And for most of his time in New England, he is the governor of the Plymouth Colony. And he writes at length about what is occurring. And what he is describing is a time of fragmentation of the pilgrim community. And the reason why this is so is prosperity.

And that's not what we expect to hear, I suppose. The pilgrims had struggled for years to keep body and soul together. And then toward the end of the 1620, something had happened that really changed their economic fortunes. And that was the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. So the Massachusetts Bay Colony is a far larger colony beginning with what's sometimes called the Great Puritan Migration that leads to the migration of thousands, not just of a couple of hundred, but thousands of Puritan migrants over a period of years to New England. And the center of that Massachusetts Colony will be only about 30, 35 miles to the north at Boston. But the individuals who are coming need supplies, just like the pilgrims had needed them. And the pilgrims had a 10-year head start on Massachusetts Bay.

And they had slowly begun to build flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. And so they find in the migrants to Massachusetts Bay a ready market. And the bottom line is, at least as William Bradford tells the story, is that many of the pilgrims consciously decided to move away from Plymouth, to move away from the church there because they saw more economic opportunity somewhere else. So it's actually a story that in some sense is bittersweet. It was a story of great sacrifice to keep the church together under adverse conditions, followed by a gradual weakening of the church in a time of prosperity. So much so that William Bradford actually ends his history of Plymouth Plantation by suggesting that the small group of survivors that still lived in Plymouth were much like, as he put it, a mother that had been abandoned by her children.

And that's a sorrowful, mournful kind of note that Bradford ends with. The significance of this though I think is also great for us as we remember the story. Because we think of the challenges that we face often in terms of adversity. And so we look to the pilgrim story and we see an example of perseverance, courage, ultimately victory in adversity. But I think the pilgrim story tells us that adversity comes in a variety of forms. You remember the parable of Jesus about the cares of this world being a kind of thorn that can choke out the fruitfulness of the plant. As it turns out the cares of this world sort of traveled with the pilgrims.

There's no getting away from them. And in the end the temptation to have a desire for other things was there. So it's a complicated story but as we dig into its complexity it becomes richer. And it challenges us in new ways.

Takes on a relevance that it would lack otherwise. And a great job as always by Greg Hengler on the production and the story telling. And a special thanks again to Robert Tracy McKenzie. His book The First Thanksgiving go to Amazon or the usual suspects to pick it up.

And he's so right. It is rich. It is complicated.

And surviving success can be as hard or possibly harder than adversity. And what I was most struck by in the story is their profound belief that they were pilgrims and what that word meant to them. Because the heroes of the Christian faith they said were indeed pilgrims. Two centuries go by before we even discover the story. It is a regional thing at best. The Thanksgiving celebration Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln changed that. The story of Thanksgiving here on The More American Story. Visit us at on December 9th. on December 9th. visit UHC Medicare health insurance dot com.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-27 11:09:38 / 2022-11-27 11:28:16 / 19

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime