It’s been more than 300 years since that first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sat down together in celebration and, much like the Americans of today, made a solemn vow not to eat more than your standard bull elk.
We know this because of a passage recently discovered in the diary of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who described the first Thanksgiving like this:
Our harvest be large so that we might rejoice! Our plates and bellies be full to swelling! We have feasted on meats and gathered crops, and pies of sweet fruit!
Aye, I say! I think it be time to vomit!
— Edward Winslow, Dec. 13, 1621
In spite of this kind of irrefutable historic documentation, many myths still exist about one of our most celebrated holidays. For example: Did anyone actually eat the Indian corn, or was it just used as a decoration?
As a special tribute to Thanksgiving, I asked our resident Siuslaw News historian, Mr. Knowitall, to help separate fact from fiction about this important holiday. For the last week, readers were encouraged to send in their own Thanksgiving questions and, as a result, we were inundated with a truckload of mail. That’s right! In fact, there were so many letters that I was forced to utilize a highly complex selection process requiring dozens of volunteers, an empty office, and our wild squirrel, “Skippy.”
Before we get started, for those of you who might not be familiar with Mr. Knowitall, I should explain that, in addition to being our resident historian here at Siuslaw News, he is also our economist, consumer products expert, food critic, movie reviewer, foreign affairs consultant, science correspondent, and vending machine repairman.
Not necessarily in that order.
We chose him because of his vast knowledge on a variety of subjects, and because, conveniently, he happens to be here every Wednesday to re-fill the Cheetos. I know this doesn’t necessarily make him an expert, but he says he is — and, being a professional journalist, I believe him.
That said, let us begin.
Dear Mr. Knowitall: Is it true that the Pilgrims made popcorn on the first Thanksgiving?
Mr. Knowitall: Yes and no. By the end of the celebration, the Wampanoags noticed that no one had eaten any of the Indian corn they brought. When asked about this, each of the 56 Pilgrims said they’d somehow overlooked it. Not wanting to insult their guests, Miles Standish then offered to hand out the corn, but “accidentally” dropped the bushel into a fire pit. The result was the beginning of popcorn and the end of the first Thanksgiving.
Dear Mr. Knowitall: Why is there no traditional Thanksgiving song?
Mr. Knowitall: Because Weird Al Yankovic hasn’t written one yet.
Dear Mr. Knowitall: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving on a Thursday?
Mr. Knowitall: Historians all agree it was most likely the day Native Americans and Pilgrims would’ve chosen in order to avoid a potential conflict with Black Friday shopping.
Dear Mr. Knowitall: What’s the best way to prepare a turkey?
Mr. Knowitall: That’s a tough question. Everyone has their own preference. Personally, I think it’s best to avoid eye contact. Just call it into the kitchen and don’t let it know what’s coming. The same goes for your guests if you happen to be serving Tofurkey; if you want them to stay, it’s best not to let them know what’s coming.
Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for today. I’d like to thank Mr. Knowitall for sharing his wisdom and helping to clarify some of the history behind Thanksgiving. In addition, I’d also like to tell him I’m sorry…
But we’re out of Cheetos again.
Yep, this has been a shameless excerpt from my book, Humor at the Speed of Life, from the section: Inspirational Holiday Columns That Proved Lifethreatening. The book is a collection of my most popular columns over the years (as opposed to the kind I usually write). Looking for something more literary? My latest book, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist, probably won’t help but is a writer’s survival guide offering tips, insights and inspiration to writers. Both are available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.