Payless Optical would like to wish everyone a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving while pondering a few facts that you probably don’t know about one of America’s most well loved holidays.
President Abraham Lincoln officially established Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday in the midst of the Civil War. The annual feast on the last Thursday of November has since become a much-loved American tradition.
In a letter written by pilgrim Edward Winslow Thanksgiving was merely a feast that lasted for three days because of a successful harvest. Winslow wrote, “There were many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men. For 17th century pilgrims, Thanksgiving was a time of fasting and prayer, but when the letter was published in a local newspaper, it was titled, “First Thanksgiving,” and the name seemed to stick.
It was actually the Wampanoag tribe, specifically, the English speaking Native American Tisquantum, who taught the colonists how to farm sustainably as that first year, the pilgrims didn’t know how to prepare what grew wild and locally with over a 100 pilgrims dying that first year.
Before the pilgrims arrived, an epidemic wiped out thousands of the tribe. Had the colonists arrived three years earlier, they most probably would not have found a place to come ashore as the area was home to thousands. By the time that the Mayflower arrived in 1620, Plymouth looked like a ghost town.
Before their arrival, the Wampanoag had driven the Europeans away, however, because of the disease the tribe was much weaker and decided to team up with their adversaries. An alliance with the pilgrims could only, “Fortify their strength.”
The Europeans were also valuable as trading partners with the Wampanoag and other Native American tribes in the area, traded axes, and steel knives for beaver pelts, which the Wampanoag considered worthless as New England was overrun with beaver. According to historians, it was a bit like someone coming to your door saying I will give you gold if you had me over a rock.
This Thanksgiving take a moment to remember your family and friends and give thanks to the Native American tribes and the pilgrims for making it a reality.