It’s been 396 years since 53 English Puritan Pilgrims joined 90 Native Americans to celebrate the First Thanksgiving at a place now called Plymouth, Massachusetts, which the Europeans named after their distant port of departure in Plymouth, England. Just a year after disembarking from the three-masted, square-rigged Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, the Colonists celebrated their first harvest in the New World with a joyous feast that lasted for three days and included their aboriginal neighbors.
The Mayflower returned to England the following April leaving the Colonists as the first permanent white settlers of the newly-formed Plymouth Colony, which was established aboard ship with the signing of the Mayflower Compact. Despite a few misunderstandings and some minor skirmishes, the Indians befriended the Colonists and taught them much in the way of growing native crops and hunting indigenous wild game—including the turkey, which is still the mainstay of Thanksgiving Day dinner today.
But a lot has changed in the nearly four centuries that have passed since the First Thanksgiving took place—things that the Pilgrims could never have imagined. Instead of hunting and trapping wild turkeys in the wilderness, we buy frozen Butterballs at the supermarket together with many of the same fruits and vegetables that were served in 1621 when the Thanksgiving tradition began, and then some.
We spend days thawing turkeys, hours stuffing and roasting them in temperature-controlled ovens, microwaving vegetables and baking pies—all before carving the juicy bird into delicious tender slices of white and dark meat with an electric knife, but only after the button pops up letting us know that the turkey is done. And this all takes place while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the small flat screen TV in the kitchen followed by watching after-dinner football on the bigger screen in the family room.
And instead of over the river and through the woods in a horse-drawn sleigh, we fly across the country in a matter of hours to be with family and friends to celebrate this joyful holiday, the day after which we head to the malls to get a head start and door-buster deals on our Christmas shopping.
Let me join the staff at Life in the Finger Lakes magazine in wishing you a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. You can read more about the history and tradition of serving turkey for Thanksgiving dinner at this link: lifeinthefingerlakes.com/talking-turkey.