The Real Story Behind Thanksgiving ?

Thanksgiving is coming up. I never really understood this holiday. I’ve heard various renditions of the origins of it. The first one I heard was the “Settlers sat with the Native Americans to celebrate a bountiful harvest,” then I heard “Native Americans saved the settlers with their farming knowledge.” I also heard “Native Americans had nothing to do with it, they had slaughtered them all,” and “It was a day where everyone came together to thank god for his graciousness (HA).” So, I researched it.

The story that is told to kids:

“Let us have a great Thanksgiving party, and invite the friendly Indians, and all rejoice together,” said the Pilgrim mothers. So they had the first Thanksgiving party, and a grand one it was! Four men went out shooting one whole day, and brought back so many wild ducks and geese and great wild turkeys that there was enough for almost a week. There was deer meat also, of course, for there were plenty of fine deer in the forest. Then the Pilgrim mothers made the corn and wheat into bread and cakes, and they had fish and clams from the sea besides. The friendly Indians all came with their chief Massasoit. Every one came that was invited, and more, I dare say, for there were ninety of them altogether. They brought five deer with them that they gave to the Pilgrims; and they must have liked the party very much, for they stayed three days. Kind as the Indians were, you would have been very much frightened if you had seen them (ha).

The “real” story:

The colony was first organized on a communal basis, as their financiers required. Land was owned in common. The Pilgrims farmed communally, too, following the “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” precept. The results were disastrous. Communism didn’t work any better 400 years ago than it does today. By 1623, the colony had suffered serious losses. Starvation was imminent. Bradford realized that the communal system encouraged and rewarded waste and laziness and inefficiency, and destroyed individual initiative. Desperate, he abolished it. He distributed private plots of land among the surviving Pilgrims, encouraging them to plant early and farm as individuals, not collectively. The results: a bountiful early harvest that saved the colonies. After the harvest, the Pilgrims celebrated with a day of Thanksgiving. (Note the absence of Native Americans in this version)

Sooo, I choose to believe that Thanksgiving was a day of being grateful for the rise of capitalism. No wonder it’s such a celebrated holiday. Americans and capitalism are inseparable. Despite all the discrepancies in the stories, I like the traditions of Thanksgiving. Getting together with your loved ones (or not so loved ones) and feasting on an obscene amount of food. Since my family is halfway across the world, I get a little sad during the holidays when my American friends ditch me for their families. I miss Korean holidays and our little traditions. I don’t exactly remember when they are or what they are (I am a bad Korean), but I remember what we used to do…and what we used to eat. The whole family would get together and make dumplings, rice cakes and the like. We’d wear colorful traditional Hanbok clothing and bow to our elders for pocket money. Anyways, I have plenty of other “orphan” friends who I spend Thanksgiving with. Last Thanksgiving, we went to TGI Friday’s then got smashed afterwards. This year, we’re planning on going to IKEA (they have a Thanksgiving special) then getting smashed afterwards. All is well.

 

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About Han J.

Located in NYC.

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