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  • Bill Chastain

Piecing Together the First Thanksgiving

Flash back to the picnic that turned into a national holiday. The big one. The adult holiday. The first Thanksgiving.

We know so little about the history of this storied event. For instance, did the Wampanoag tribe invite the Pilgrims over or visa-versa? Formal occasion? Bloody Marys or Mimosas? Did they watch the Detroit Lions or real Lions?

Alas, some questions will remain unanswered. Fortunately, I see things. And I'm capable using the Internet. I've managed to piece together the facts--nothing but hard facts--to answer the important questions about what really happened at the inaugural Thanksgiving.

First, the easy stuff.

According to Wikipedia, the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621. The actual date is unclear. No problem. Any moron can approximate that it occurred some time after November 20 and before December 1. College football rivalry week, right? Game Day featured a solo Lee Corso in 1621.

The settlers had a crop they'd proudly harvested, but as any settler worth his broadcloth suit would tell you, you gotta have meat. Enter the opportunistic Wampanoag, who needed to unload a surplus of Swanson frozen turkey and mash potato meals. Underneath the mandate to "sell before November 1622" the directions read: "Vent by making a cut in the plastic then place over campfire. Cook until the turkey is browned and before the plastic melts."

While I'm not the biggest fan of turkey, Thanksgiving tradition is blessed that the Wampanoag did not have a surplus of spam that fall.

My friend Gary once recounted how his sister and he would get stuck at the kids table on Thanksgiving. That arrangement fostered wild calculations about the ill fortunes needed to take place in order for them to move up to the adult table. Of course, once you're an adult, you realize you'd rather be sitting at the kids table (provided you can bring along your adult beverages), but when you're a kid, you're pissed.

Alas, Gary's and his sister's calculations -- despite good intentions -- were misdirected. Progressing from the kids table never depended on Uncle Eddie passing to the other side of the grass, rather it was all about the Benjamins -- or pre-Benjamins at the first Thanksgiving. Once again, credit Wampanoag. They had the insight to bring priority seating to the equation.

Pilgrim parents were thrifty. They weren't about to cough up extra seat licensing funds for their kids. Besides, they didn't want them sitting at the adult table anyway. Said fiscal position relegated the kids to the cheap seats, which came to be known as the kids table, a.k.a., the nose-bleed section or standing room only.

Finally, the Wampanoag knew retail, which could be seen in the many sales they offered the day after Thanksgiving. And Black Friday was born. Accordingly, Pilgrim husbands slipped their wives a few shekels to trade while they went hunting or watched football.

And that's the unvarnished truth about what happened at the first Thanksgiving. Internet research is about as credible as it gets. Well, at least as credible as an Oliver Stone flick.

Happy Thanksgiving. See you again next week.

I invite you to hang out with me on my site at and read more of my blogs. You can also download FREE chapters from some of my fiction books: Peachtree Corvette Club, The Streak and Retrouvailles. Drop me a line at Asked and Answered. Let's talk about feel-good stories, fun facts, movies, food and, of course, two of my very favorite topics: sports and books. Whatever is on your mind.

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