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The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving – A Festival of Food in 1621

The First Thanksgiving – A Festival of Food in 1621 1200 675 Jason Stadtlander

Famine and Celebration

It took the original colonists sixty-six brutal days to cross the Atlantic back in 1620, finally dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay and settlers began establishing the first village of Plymouth.

The First ThanksgivingThrough that first brutal winter, most of the colonists lived aboard the Mayflower, suffering from exposure as well as many other contagious diseases and killing off half of the ship’s complement. In the spring, the remaining settlers moved ashore and were approached by an Abenaki Indian who surprisingly, greeted them in English. A few days later, they returned with another Native American named Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, who had been kidnapped by an English captain and sold into slavery; Squanto later escaped to London and returned to his homeland on an expedition. The Pilgrims, suffering from disease and malnutrition, were educated by Squanto on how to cultivate corn, extract sap from trees and catch fish in local rivers. Squanto taught them which plants were safe for consumption and which were poisonous. He also helped the Pilgrims forge an alliance with the local Wampanoag tribe with which would they would remain allies for more than 50 years. Sadly, it remains the sole example of harmony between the colonists and Native Americans.

plymouth-thanksgivingFollowing a successful harvest in November of 1621, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the colony’s new Native American allies to join them. The festival of food lasted three days and became known as America’s first “Thanksgiving.” Ironically, the Pilgrims were completely out of sugar by this time, so they had no pies, cakes or other delicious confections we so often associate with Thanksgiving.

That’s right, not even a pumpkin pie.

Turkey Did Not Make it to the First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims had no oven to bake a turkey, so a group of men were sent on a “fowling” mission returning with five deer which were then prepared with traditional Native American spices and methods.

The second Thanksgiving was held in 1623 to celebrate the end of a long drought. It wouldn’t be until 1789 that George Washington would finally declare this day a national holiday. Thanksgiving wasn’t officially added to the calendar at that time, each state celebrated on its own chosen date.

For thirty-six years, author Sarah Josepha Hale (author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) pleaded with governors, senators, and presidents to establish a nationally-recognized holiday. Finally, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln asked the nation to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and agreed to schedule Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November to “heal the wounds of the nation” following the Civil War.

Later, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday back a week in an attempt to help retailers during the Depression in 1936. This was met with strong opposition – so Roosevelt reluctantly changed it back to the fourth Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving by any other name…

It may surprise you to know that several other countries also celebrate a Thanksgiving:

Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October to give thanks for the close of the harvest season.


Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November since in 1820 it was colonized by a group of free African Americans (formerly slaves).

Norfolk Island celebrates Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday in November, having been established by visiting American whaling ships.

The people of the Netherlands celebrate the American holiday on the same day as the United States, as many of the Pilgrims were originally from the Netherlands.

Grenada, a Carribean island in the West Indies, celebrates Thanksgiving on October 25th. Their holiday actually marks the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of the island in 1983 in response to the execution of Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.

Educators Should Educate – Not Manipulate

Educators Should Educate – Not Manipulate 1024 926 Jason Stadtlander

In October of 2016 I picked up my children one day from school and my son says, “Daddy, who are you going to vote for?”

I remember looking at him with an expression of concern. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because my teacher said everyone should vote for Clinton.”

I immediately felt a flash of anger. Not because I dislike Hillary Clinton, but because I believe it is vital for children to come to their own conclusions and hear unbiased perspectives, especially from educators. I do not think that any teacher or principal has a right to try and sway my children one way or the other with politics.  I have no problem with them unbiasedly discussing what the political platforms are, and why they (politicians) choose different platforms, but the children should be allowed to come to their own conclusion regarding their own political views.

I got down at eye level with my son and gently grabbed his shoulders, “Son, I will vote for who I feel is the correct person to put into office as the President. Your teacher will do the same, and one day, when you’re old enough – you too will choose the person that you feel is the correct person. Voting is a very personal thing. It is our right granted to us by those who founded our country. Three things you should never discuss until you understand what you are talking about are religion, politics, and money. They are all very personal things, and everyone has a right to believe what they want to believe without it being ridiculed or forced down their throat.”

There is “education,” and then there is “influence.” Influencing causes children to go home and question their parent’s choices that they have spent a lifetime establishing. I’m not saying that a child questioning (or developing their own beliefs) is terrible. What I am saying is that their questioning should not be due to outside manipulation.

It is a parent’s job to teach children about faith (or lack of), political views (both sides – preferably without pushing one or the other), finances and what is right or wrong with regards to sexual preference especially since a parent’s faith can lead this. I can honestly say that any parent that doesn’t teach these things are doing a disservice to their children. A child needs to have the foundation they are raised with and needs to be objectively taught each of these views to be a well-rounded member of society.

I believe it can be handled unbiasedly as follows:

You can explain the liberal platforms, the desire for social programs, their belief in how healthcare should be managed and civil rights – Then you can explain the conservative platforms and how faith sculpts some of their views and how they feel about various political issues.

An educator can explain something without injecting their own personal views. Yes, I know it can be difficult – especially when dealing with children who are curious and want to know their teacher’s views. But there is wanting to know, and needing to know, and I do not feel they need to know. At least not in the classroom environment.

In the meantime, as a parent, I will do my best to try and educate my children on the platforms, what people are hoping for and what people (and myself) want in leaders and world issues. I hope that you as parents will do the same.

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