The Invention of Thanksgiving
November 26, 2019 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Massacres, myths, and the making of the great November holiday.

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving for nearly four centuries, commemorating that solemn dinner in November, 1621. We know the story well, or think we do. Adorned in funny hats, large belt buckles, and clunky black shoes, the Pilgrims of Plymouth gave thanks to God for his blessings, demonstrated by the survival of their fragile settlement. The local Indians, supporting characters who generously pulled the Pilgrims through the first winter and taught them how to plant corn, joined the feast with gifts of venison. A good time was had by all, before things quietly took their natural course: the American colonies expanded, the Indians gave up their lands and faded from history, and the germ of collective governance found in the Mayflower Compact blossomed into American democracy.

Almost none of this is true.

posted by poffin boffin (5 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Thanksgiving is white America's creation myth.

Thanksgiving: A Day of Mourning, by Roy Cook for American Indian Source.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:53 AM on November 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

I find this all the funnier since I'm in a Christmas/Hanukkah play right now (Coney Island Christmas) and thus I spend a lot of time watching kids put on a Thanksgiving pageant where Squanto is all "I spent a lot of time in England!" and "We want to help you!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:20 PM on November 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wasn't aware schools still did Thanksgiving pageants. I think I've only ever seen reference to them on TV or movies. I'm curious if that is a regional thing.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:20 AM on November 27, 2019

They didn't do them where I'm from, but they weren't great on theater opportunities for kids below high school growing up. Taking random polls among the cast recently, it sounded the other day like some places do and some don't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:50 PM on November 27, 2019

They adopted the forms of the Christian church, to some degree, in order to gain some breathing space.

Nothing to add: I just appreciate the writing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:28 PM on November 29, 2019

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