Thanksgiving Legend in Question
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PLYMOUTH, MA Historians in Plymouth recently discovered documents that could change the way we eat Thanksgiving meals forever.

Everyone knows how the legend goes. We all learned it in elementary school, where, each November, we were forced to dress up as cute little pilgrims with cute little hats and cute little Indians with bright-colored construction paper feathers and act out The First Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims arrived on Plymouth Rock (which was actually a big papier-mâché blob) and suffered all kinds of hardships—including battles with the previous landowners, the Indians. But, by fall, everything was happy. The Pilgrims and The Indians even became Best Friends Forever. And to celebrate the fact that they had all successfully survived the year, The Pilgrims and The Indians got together for a big celebration—which they called “Thanksgiving” and turned into an annual thing (mostly because it was a long way from Labor Day to Christmas, and they needed another day off).

  
 
At that big celebration, they ate turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberries. (There was also that hilarious episode with the turkey that resulted in the creation of what’s now known in North America as “football,” but that’s another story.)

But is all that the real story? No one questioned its credibility until just recently, when Pilgrim Historian Rutherford Wells of Plymouth discovered a document that contradicts previous historical records of The First Thanksgiving. The document—a diary by pilgrim Sarah Madison—reports that, while The First Thanksgiving did, in fact, take place on the last Thursday in November, the celebration did not actually involve turkey.

As Madison reported, “And thus on that Thursday, we celebrated our harvest with a meal.” She also reported, however, that there were a few spats among The Pilgrims. Apparently, they had planned to have a huge meal with turkey and all the fixings. Unfortunately, one of The Pilgrim Guys “hath foolishly wagered the celebration turkey on a test of marksmanship and was thus obliged to give our meal to The Indians, who did then laugh and depart to hold their own celebration. And, thus, we partook of last night’s Brussels sprouts.”

Says Wells, “It appears that Thanksgiving was not such a joyous occasion that first year. It seems as though The Indians enjoyed a feast, while The Pilgrims dined on Humble Pie—and anything the women could scrounge up—after losing a bet. The Pilgrim Guys, in a pact of brotherhood, then covered up their own mistake by rewriting history.”

This year, then, Wells suggests that we all celebrate an authentic Thanksgiving—by giving our turkeys away to someone else and eating nothing but leftovers.

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