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On Thanksgiving Day around the country, people will be sleeping in, reading the paper leisurely, and taking long strolls anticipating a traditional holiday feast in the company of friends and family. Mothers will not be among them.
At 5 a.m. you are up trying to thaw your turkey with the hair dryer because it won’t fit in the microwave. You have 15 pounds of sweet potatoes to peel, a bushel of beans to snap and a recipe for cornbread dressing that begins, “Take out a good-size wash pot.”
You recruit your children to help prepare the turkey for roasting and discover that they are using it to act out their favorite rap song.
Alone once again with your bird and your wash pot of dressing, you wonder how these traditions began. I have my own version of how our Thanksgiving traditions began but I doubt you will find it in any history book.
It all began in 1621 in the Plymouth Colony, when the Pilgrim Fathers decided they should have a feast to give thanks for their first harvest in their new country. After declaring this Thanksgiving Day, the Pilgrim Fathers notified the Pilgrim Mothers that the feast was up to them.
Now, if you remember your history correctly, there was no Domino’s Pizza, no McDonald’s, and no Burger King in Plymouth, so ordering out was not even a possibility.
The Pilgrim Mothers inquired as to who might be invited to this feast. The Pilgrim Fathers indicated that it would include the entire colony as well as their new Indian friends, which could number five or 50, as no one knew the Indian word for R.S.V.P.
After much grumbling and moaning over preparing this huge feast, the Pilgrim Mothers decided to keep it simple and serve a corn casserole with some berries and dried fruit.
The Pilgrim Fathers were furious. They had invited the Indians to attend this feast and hoped to impress them with a meal of freshly killed game, abundant vegetables, breads and sweets. The Pilgrim Mothers' lack of enthusiasm for this banquet was appalling and the Pilgrim Fathers said so.
The Pilgrim Mothers said they already carried most of the responsibilities for the colony, doing jobs such as educating the children, weaving, sewing, washing and ironing clothes, gathering fruits and berries, and cooking. They thought that the least the Pilgrim Fathers could do was, one day a year, prepare a meal. Why not Thanksgiving Day?
The Pilgrim Fathers discussed the Pilgrim Mothers' proposal, but admitted that their culinary creations could lead to some serious indigestion and might prove offensive to their guests, the Indians. In the end, they offered the Pilgrim Mothers new beaver and squirrel coats if they would cook the feast.
The Pilgrim Mothers relented and prepared the meal. It was a huge success. In the aftermath of that first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim Mothers began to refer to the Pilgrim Fathers as “those turkeys,” which is why instead of wild duck, which was served at the first Thanksgiving, we now eat turkey.
If there’s any doubt in your mind as to how much truth there is in my version of the first Thanksgiving, chances are you’re not the one up to your elbows in a wash pot full of cornbread dressing.


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