Friendsgiving Amongst The Ages
Thanksgiving is a sardonic holiday. The history books, at least from what I remember, paint the day as a blissful union between the Plymouth settlers into the new land came with new celebrations from their motherland, new customs, and new diseases. At least new diseases for those in the Native Americans who we’ve seen illustrated at a table with those peasant looking pilgrims in our past childhood school activities and readings. Ironically enough, the idea of Thanksgiving wasn’t formally identified between the Native Americans and the pilgrims until the 1900s -- almost 400 hundred years after the fact. Only with the resurrection of two documents: Governor Bradford’s manuscript, “Plimoth Plantation”, and Longfellow’s poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish” did the public begin to seam together the event of Thanksgiving with the temporary union between the nation and the settlers at Cape Cod. Despite the idea that maybe there might of been a moment of peace through the alliances between those pilgrims (and later Dutch settlers) and those established tribes, the economic consequences and conflicts of interest resulted in unsettlement between the notable Pequot Nation and European settlers. Resulting in what came to be known as the 1636 Pequot War, which by 1637, had effective battle on each side. Eventually the Pequot communities were oversieged by those Connecticut and Massachusetts English who executed native leaders and enslaved women and children leading up to the Pequot’s eventual defeat. This set the course for a long history of acts of national aggression against the Native Americans in what would be later known as The United States of America.
...But they look so at peace in the illustrations
Crazily enough, the customs of Thanksgiving were practiced far before the English settlers arrived. These celebration of thanks occurred in countries within Europe before the 1600’s and other groups including Spanish settlers in North America who beat the pilgrims to the punch. It turns out this holiday isn’t significant to one single event between the alliance of pilgrims and Native Americans, but an idealized sentiment of U.S. nationalism and a moral of good deed to teach the kiddos in school. So what is at the root of Thanksgiving? Simple -- successful harvest. With the year’s hard work growing to fruition, communities gave thanks for the produce of the year.
Many don’t have to harvest to survive in our first-world country thanks to our current technologically-inclined age where produce is transported from industrial farms to refrigerated trucks, and finally to our kitchens. Now we can give thanks with contemporary customs like watching men in tight pants and wide-plastic shoulder gear hit each other while throwing a egg-shaped leather ball. Or eating pre-frozen turkeys and at least one side dish that is produced entirely from canned goods.
Just like the ole’ traditions have changed, my idea of Thanksgiving has changed from an idealized representation of America to a culmination of sincere company -- be that family, friends, or the community. While we no longer have to toil over months to produce and then bask in the fruits of our a harvest, we can celebrate with simple acts such as coming together to cook and eat a good meal.
This year I did just that with close and unfamiliar friends. We came together and cooked a sub-par Indian meal (it was my first time cooking naan and braised chicken masala), which ended in a night of sitting outside by the fire while talking about our year’s past: current affairs, future endeavors, societal troubles, and silly antics. I presume that regardless of our diverse posse, we share similar motives with those who came before us. I’m thankful for that good company and the culinary craft of food which to me is the ultimate pick-me-up for stage in life. I really think it should be practiced more outside of that overrated holiday.