Feature

Carving up Thanksgiving myths

French pilgrims beat the Mayflower, and other holiday facts

On Thanksgiving, said Karl Jacoby in the Los Angeles Times, “we like to imagine that we are reenacting a scene that first took place in 1621.” But to be historically accurate, we would eat venison and corn in late September. That’s if we ate at all; “devout Pilgrims” usually gave thanks through worship and fasting. We could also commemorate the “Publique Thankesgiving” of 1676, when the Pilgrims celebrated the bloody defeat of their Indian dinner companions of 1621.

It would be “more appropriate” to nosh on “coq au vin and a nice Bordeaux” in June, said Kenneth Davis in The New York Times, when the first Europeans “seeking religious freedom” arrived—from France, 50 years before the “Mayflower Pilgrims.” The French Huguenots had their own thanksgiving in Florida in June 1564. Life was good—until the Spanish massacred them in 1565.

Well, the first American Thanksgiving was in 1777, in York, Pa., said Ira Stoll in The Wall Street Journal. In the dark days of 1776, we had only “two days of ‘solemn fasting’ and worship.” But as the American troops started beating the British in 1777, the nascent Congress declared Thursday, Dec. 19, “a day of Thanksgiving.” It wasn’t fixed on the last Thursday of November until 1941.

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