It was 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared a fall harvest meal, regarded by most as the first Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until 1863, however, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day.
Those very early colonists were faced with a harsh New England winter in their first year, which brought malnutrition, illness and death. The kindness of an American Indian who spoke English, which he learned during his time as an English sea captain’s captive, went a long way toward preventing more colonist deaths.
That man, Squanto, taught the colonists how to cultivate and collect food in their new homeland. He also helped them forge an alliance with the local tribe, the Wampanoag; an alliance that endured for more than 50 years.
Historians speculate that the 1621 Thanksgiving menu, shared between the settlers and their new friends, probably included fowl of some sort as well as deer and corn. With no oven and a dwindling sugar supply, cakes and pies were almost certainly not on the menu.
Despite the fact that approximately 90 percent of Thanksgiving meals now feature turkey, the wildfowl served at the first Thanksgiving meal was probably goose or duck.
As traditions have evolved, one or two lucky turkeys get pardoned by the U.S President each year, which started in the mid 20th century. Some state governors do the same for turkeys in their respective states. Over time, parades and volunteering have also became part of the U.S. Thanksgiving tradition.
However you celebrate Thanksgiving, whatever you include in your feast and whomever you invite to your table, from all of us at The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, we hope this Thanksgiving fills your heart, as well as your belly, and that we all reflect on the charity and friendship exemplified by that first Thanksgiving celebration.