The confusing history of Thanksgiving.

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Garrett Lundy, Nov 23, 2005.

  1. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    And now; The story of Thanksgiving. In case you had forgotten 4th grade history.

    Part 1: The "Pilgrims".

    Yes, the "pilgrims" lead by Brewster, Clifton, and Robinson (and I'm using pilgrim in quotation even though 'seperatist' or 'puritan' would be a better fit) left England, but not because they were opressed. Quite the opposite, They found the Church of England (aka. The Episcopalians) too lenient with its morals & goings-on, and felt they needed to "move on" and form a church that followed scripture a little stricter. So they moved to the Netherlands.
    Whilst in the Netherlands the Rev. Brewster published a series of anti-England writings. The English pressured the Netherlands to put a stop to this and "the pilgrims" decided that they had better move on before the English-suporting Dutch started building gallows.
    The separtists made a deal with the London Company, a shipping & trade company, for passage and supplies in exchange for goods from a region in northern Virginia colony. Bad weather put them off-course, and they decided to set-up camp in the wilderness that would eventually become Massachusetts. Thinking the voyage to Virginia would be too risky. Since they were in a political "neutral zone", they wrote up their own charter and built a town. In a New England winter.

    Part 2: Death, Squanto, and the harvest feast.

    Now safely in their new town of New Plymouth (regular Plymouth was the town in England where they got the boats), the puritan pilgrims promptly froze and starved. And there was probably a rampant disease or two. In all one half to two thirds of the puritans didn't last till spring. Among the dead was Carver. Bradford named himself Governor after Carver died, and in the spring he made a peace treaty with the Wampanoag tribe. (The tribe would kill most of the settlers in the 1660's during King Phillips war, but thats another story).
    From the Wampanoag tribe came Massasoit and Squanto (aka.Tisquantum) to teach them to fend for themselves in exchange for firearms. The puritan pilgrims were suppost to land in Virginia and few of their seed crops grew well in the northern climate (Tobacco was their largest cash-crop on the ships). So the natives taught them which plants to cultivate and how to hunt the local animals.
    Squanto (Tisquantum) had been a slave in both England and Spain from 1605 - 1618. He was mostly responsible for the treaty with the English, since he spoke the language. Scholars believe his personal intrest was to aquire more firearms to use against the Spanish settlers who decimated his tribe (the Pawtuxet) with smallpox. He lived with the Puritans for another year, teaching them the tribes language 'Massachusett' (which the colony was named after) before his death in 1622 from a fever.
    So in 1621 with abundant crops the pilgrims were in no immediate danger of starvation and held a 'harvest festival" in the autumn. It may have been September or October. The western world switched from the Augustine to the Gregorian calender since then, which puts the actual event in either month, depending who you asked. The festival wasn't hed again until 1623 to celebrate the end of a drought. The feast was a big success, and New Plymouth & the pilgrims would be forgotten by history for another 150 years.

    Part 3: The Revolutionary War

    During the American Revoultionary war, the continental congress decided that days of thanks & prayers would be made each year. To be celebrated by everyone, but for different events. The first recognised national Thanksgiving was in December of 1777 celebrating Washingtons defeat of the Brittish at Saratoga. Later Washington, now president, would appoint the Thanksgiving holiday on and off until 1799. President Madison declared several days of Thanksgiving in 1815.

    Part 4: New York and the national Holiday

    In 1817 the governor of New York set a state-wide 'Day of Thanksgiving" to celebrate the ending of the war of 1812 (1812-1815) to be held every year in December. By 1853 every state had its own "thanksgiving", the dates of which never matched.

    Part 5: The Civil War

    During the American civil war, Union president Lincoln made a national mandate that state thanksgivings would be replaced by a national thanksgiving. And I quote:


    Part 6: Roosevelt and the Depression

    At this time tradition said it was inappropriate to buy Christmas presents until the day after Thanksgiving. but 1939 had something of a depression going on and president Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the last thursday of November to the second-to-the-last thursday in November in hopes of getting more people to spend money. without the approval of congress only 23 states changed the date of Thanksgiving.
    In 1941 Congress officially changed the date of thanksgiving to the fourth thursday in november (which was a split since there were only 4 thursdays in November some years, and 5 in others) because the Second World War saw a need to increase retail sales (more sales = more taxes = more money for war).

    Part 7: Conclusion

    And thats the true story of America's Thanksgiving. Which if you're not confused already is a celebration of the Puritan's treaty with the Wampanoag, Washington's victory over the British at Saratoga, the ending of the War of 1812, a lament of the American Civil War, and lastly, a celebration of the Christmas shopping season.

    Now go eat some turkey. Its good for you. [​IMG]
     
  2. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Part 6 1/2: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

    Charlie Brown upsets his guests by serving a non-traditional meal of popcorn, pretzels, and toast.
     
  3. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Not in New England, where both the Pilgrims and the Puritans (hint: they weren't the same people, but two different groups) and their harvest season Thanksgiving were remembered and commemorated as a local tradition. Neither the holiday nor the history were much remembered outside of New England, but by the 19th century the regional New England holiday was catching on elsewhere as the increaing mobility of the population and communincation between the states (thanks to the railroads, the telegraph and - ironically - the Civil War created a more homogenous society. One result was that the New England harvest season Thanksgiving spread to the rest of the country. Another was that the descendents of the New England puritans began to celebrate Christmas, previously disdained as a papist holiday. They may have shared the opression of the C of E with the Catholics, but the puritans had even less use for the Vatican than the British establishment did. If anything they criticized the Official Church for being too much like the Catholics, particularly the High Church Anglicans with their saints, feast days, incense and robes.

    The problem with revisionist history is that there is usually very little history in it.


    Regards,

    Joe
     
  4. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    So what does any of this have to do with football and the Macy's parade?
     
  5. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Well, thats what I get for trusting my facts to the Wikipedia :b
     
  6. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    sort of an interesting personal fact about thanksgiving:

    the house i grew up in was the site of the first thanksgiving. not the actual house, that was built probably 100 years after. but it sits on brewster gardens, and at the base of the yard, the pilgrims (fuzzy on the details) decided (?) to have the first thanksgiving. a friend of my parents is a local historian, and was shocked when i didnt know what happened in the back yard. i live about 30 yards from it now.

    i always figured our street was named after a pilgrim [​IMG]

    CJ
     
  7. andrew markworthy

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    This is absolutely true, but there are shades of meaning of 'oppressed'. Generally, dissenters were left alone provided they didn't rock the boat - e.g. there was no Brit equivalent of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. So meeting for services, etc, was unlikely to invite over-great hostility provided at other times you paid your taxes, were a good neighbour, etc. And being barred from public office worked to the advantage of some dissenters. By being forced into 'trade' (i.e. retail and manufacturing) they prospered at the dawn of the modern mercantile age. As proof of this, some of the UK's most successful companies have roots in people with non-conformist religious beliefs.

    Catholics generally fared worse than most because of association with rebellion (real or imagined). Generally, the protestant spin-off groups were seen as loyal, but a bit strange. The primary reason for a lot of non-conformist groups leaving for America was that they wanted to be somewhere where they could call the shots because they believed where they were living was ungodly - the oppression was part of this, but it was far from the only reason. And when they did get to call the shots they were often as bad as the oppressors they had escaped from, but that is another story.
     
  8. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    That is a very interesting point, I never realized that facet of British industry. Unfortunately that positive outcome was dumb luck and not free will.

    Also, great point on Squanto being a slave, never realized that one. I'll have to do some more non-Wik research.

    It is worth mentioning that part of the Pilgrims initial failures were because of the "common store house" economic strategy where everyone contributed and consumed "equally". (From each according to their ability, to each according to their need - sounds utopian, doesn't it ?)

    Unfortunately when there is no motive to produce, the natural tendency is for the consumers to quickly outpace the producers, leading to a shortage of crop supply. When they converted to a system where everyone produced their own and bartered their excess, they began to flourish.

    But Wik brings up a good point on the choice of seeds as a contributing factor. Have to read up a bit further on that one as well.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all !
     
  9. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    It is appropriate to refer to the initial separatist settlers as "Pilgrim Fathers" to differentiate them both from the later New England Puritans, and from the English Puritans who remained and started a bloody Civil War in that country which resulted, among other things, in the settlement of scotsmen in Ulster to pacify Ireland. Oliver Cromwell -- grandson of Thomas Cromwell, who apparently first came up with the idea of having Henry VIII separate from the Catholic Church so he could appropriate its assets to pay his enormous debts -- shared his ancestor's talent for brilliant ideas.
     
  10. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    What go's better with turkey, Merlot or White Zinfandel? We're expect 1 - 3 feet of snow tonight (yes, a yard of snow) so it looks like I'm not going anywhere. And since I'm stuck dealing with family, I may have to start uncorking in a few minutes..... [​IMG]
     
  11. andrew markworthy

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    I trust the wine has been chilled. Personally, I would choose merlot.
     
  12. Micheal

    Micheal Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
     
  13. David Williams

    David Williams Cinematographer

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    Definitely the Zin... Turning Leaf makes a great Zin that's fantastic with Turkey.
     
  14. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Chilled in a snowbank of fresh Thanksgiving snow (the fridge is full of pie). I'm only slightly tipsy now and the family is wathcing reruns of Bones. I think I have a bottle of Camelot somewhere calling me .....
     
  15. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Actually the first celebration of a Thanksgiving day of feasting and religious observance in a permanent European settlement in the territory of what is now the United States took place in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. So all of thie discussion of the New England celebration is really beside the point. [​IMG] By the time the Pilgrims Fathers showed up, St. Augustine was due for urban renewal. [​IMG]

    Happy Turkey Day!

    Joe
     
  16. David Brown Eyes

    David Brown Eyes Second Unit

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    Ahem, that was typical.

    Lets not forget that versions of Thanksgiving were held all over this hemisphere by hundres of nations for thousands of years before Puritians ever stepped foot on this soil.
     
  17. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    So true, celebrations of a successful harvest are present in many other cultures, both in this hemisphere and abroad.

    However, the particular US holiday falling on the 4th Thursday of November is used to recognize and celebrate thanks for the hardships of European settlers in North America.

    David - might be educational for our readers if you could share some of the prior celebration rituals that you're familiar with. Thanks !
     
  18. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    And others were held in Europe and Asia and Africa by even more nations for thousands of years longer than that. Because pretty much every agricultural society has has some kind of harvest festival for as long as its had agriculture itself, and pretty much all of them have some element of giving thanks to the gods for the harvest.

    None of which (except, perhaps the English traditions) have anything at all to do with the modern American holiday, since there is no cultural continuity between them and the later tradition. (The same applies to the St. Augustine celebration, of course, which I only brought up to be snarky since I happen to live in Florida. [​IMG])

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  19. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Florida was property of the Spanish crown in 1565 and didn't become part of the United States until president Adams 'purchased" it in 1817. Thats why we don't celebrate that Thanksgiving. We also don't celebrate any Thanksgivings that were held in Jamestown, the first English colony. We celebrate the Thanksgiving of the first independantly governed American territory. And also a bunch of Wars & stuff (see post #1).
     
  20. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Ouch - we've been Snarked !
     

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