Revisiting 1621 on the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving

(Note: Years ago, I wrote a newspaper column about the very first Thanksgiving back in 1621 … the Thanksgiving, not the column. Few realized until then that my ancestors were very much involved in the event. Here is their story, reprinted.)


As we prepare to welcome families into our home for a feast that will leave us thankful when they’re finally gone until at least Christmas, this is the perfect time to revisit the day that started it all — the first Thanksgiving.

My ancestors came over on the Sunflower, which was a little party barge, complete with radio and beer cooler, that followed the Mayflower over to Plymouth Rock from the Old Country. At the top of our family tree is Cousin Eddie, who spent most of the voyage across the Atlantic jumping over waves left in the Mayflower’s wake.

Cousin Eddie kept a journal that was handed down from generation to generation in my family and includes accounts of such historic events as the signing of the Mayflower Compact and the Indians’ sale of Manhattan to the Dutch for just a few trinkets and Knicks season tickets. And, of course, it has the following account of the first Thanksgiving:

Hi. Cousin Eddie here. Me and the other folks around Plymouth had ourselves a big ol’ meal last week. You see, Ebeneezer, Josiah and me scored big on our latest hunt. Killed a whole bunch of deer and wild turkey. Of course, if we hadn’t killed off all that Wild Turkey, maybe Josiah wouldn’t have fallen off the four-wheeler and broke his leg.

Anyway, we brought back all the dead animals, and the women folk — Sarah, Priscilla, Abigail and the gang — whipped up some side items, although Priscilla and Abigail got into it over the whole dressing or stuffing debate. “Getting ready for the Salem Bitch Trials a little early, ain’t ya?” Abigail commented at one point.

We were gonna have a nice quiet dinner but then found out Jedediah invited the Indians over, too. He’s been hanging out with the Indians a lot lately. I think he’s having an identity crisis. Last month, he was running around with Old Mr. Samuel’s slaves and asked us to start calling him “P. Doody.”

Most of the Indians were pretty cool, but there’s always that one you invite only because somebody’s related to him and you’d feel guilty if you didn’t. I didn’t think Chief Full of Bull would ever get off that whole we-were-here-first, stop-calling-me-an-Indian kick.

But the food totally rocked, Pilgrim. Turkey, corn, potatoes and pumpkin pie. Of course, Prudence and her boyfriend, Crazy Jacob, got there late because they had to stop and buy a box of chicken fingers.

Anyway, we all went back for seconds and several of us had to kinda recline on the picnic table and undo those tacky Pilgrim belt buckles while we watched some Cowboys and Redskins throw this leather sack back and forth.

Meanwhile, the ladies cleaned all the dishes themselves and made plans to go shopping the next day, while the children played some popular games here in the settlement — such as marbles, leapfrog and Grand Theft Auto III.

When our dinner settled, Jedediah suggested we all go throw around a leather sack, too. However, the game ended far too soon as we realized that we were extremely white and British and the Indians all ran off when William lined up in the shotgun formation.

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