My youngest daughter has a favorite game she likes to play. She calls it the “what is your favorite …” game.
The questions can range anywhere from, “What is your favorite color?” to “What is your favorite food?” Inevitably, she will ask me, “Dad, what is your favorite holiday?”
I always give the same response. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
I would be willing to bet that most kids, and maybe most adults as well, would answer Christmas. I like Thanksgiving because there’s not much difference between it and Christmas, other than the absence of the expectation of giving gifts. I abhor Christmas shopping. I like gathering in a family home, eating a big meal together, and spending time with each other without having to worry about if someone will like the gift that I bought for them.
I began to get interested in history, and the Thanksgiving holiday specifically, when I was in elementary school. I can remember doing lessons in my social studies class on the Pilgrims, the Native Americans, and how they interacted and co-existed with each other. This co-habitation of North America among these early Europeans and the people already here led to that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
I loved tracing my hand and turning it into a turkey, or placing a feather on my head and pretending that I was a Native American. We performed in plays where we acted out scenes from early American history. We have paintings that depict that day where Pilgrims and Native Americans sat at a table together and gave thanks to God for all the blessings that had been bestowed upon them.
The table typically featured a large bird at the center of it. Typically, you will find at least one pumpkin and possibly a cornucopia in the vicinity of the feast as well.
This sounds so nice, and it would be, if it were even remotely true. Unfortunately, there are many errors in what we perceive as the truth about what happened that day in 1621.
What is true is that the Pilgrims made a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with a three-day celebration, with members of the Wampanoag tribe present, which became known as Thanksgiving, sort of.
It wasn’t until a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on a regular basis. The truth is that Native Americans and Pilgrims held celebrations for successful harvests long before this event ever occurred, so it was hardly unique.
There is no evidence that these Native Americans were actually invited to this feast in the first place. The journals and other writings of the Pilgrims make no mention of extending an invitation to them, and Wampanoag oral tradition makes no mention of being invited, either.
How the Wampanoag ended up there remains a mystery still to this day. Perhaps the Wampanoag leader Massasoit, was there on a diplomatic mission. We do know for sure that the feast happened, and that the Pilgrims and Native Americans fellow-shipped together. This was a time of relative peace between the two factions. This peace would deteriorate quickly after this though.
Regardless of how much truth or fiction is mixed into this holiday of ours, one thing is for sure; we have many reasons to be thankful as Americans.
As we move into the holiday season, I would encourage everyone to take a moment and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a country where, despite our many differences, we have much to celebrate. We have made many mistakes in the past, and we will make many mistakes in the future, but at the end of the day, we are blessed.
Plain and simple.
There is much to be thankful for. Now, where did I put my shopping list for Black Friday? Kidding!
• Wes Adams is a member of the 2019 The Courier-Tribune Panel of Guest Columnists. He is a student in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He lives in Randleman with his wife and two daughters. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org