Thursday, November 27, 2008
The First Thanksgiving
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. Although this feast is considered by many to the very first Thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. Native American groups throughout the Americas, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Creek and many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.
Historians have also recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Berkeley Plantation, Virginia. At this site near the Charles River in December of 1619, a group of British settlers led by Captain John Woodlief knelt in prayer and pledged "Thanksgiving" to God for their healthy arrival after a long voyage across the Atlantic. This event has been acknowledged by some scholars and writers as the official first Thanksgiving among European settlers on record. Whether at Plymouth, Berkeley Plantation, or throughout the Americas, celebrations of thanks have held great meaning and importance over time. The legacy of thanks, and particularly of the feast, have survived the centuries as people throughout the United States gather family, friends, and enormous amounts of food for their yearly Thanksgiving meal.
What was on the menu?
What foods topped the table at the first harvest feast? Historians aren't completely certain about the full bounty, but it's safe to say the pilgrims weren't gobbling up pumpkin pie or playing with their mashed potatoes. Following is a list of the foods that were available to the colonists at the time of the 1621 feast. However, the only two items that historians know for sure were on the menu are venison and wild fowl, which are mentioned in primary sources. The most detailed description of the "First Thanksgiving" comes from Edward Winslow from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
Foods That May Have Been on the Menu
Seafood: Cod, Eel, Clams, Lobster
Wild Fowl: Wild Turkey, Goose, Duck, Crane, Swan, Partridge, Eagles
Meat: Venison, Seal
Grain: Wheat Flour, Indian Corn
Vegetables: Pumpkin, Peas, Beans, Onions, Lettuce, Radishes, Carrots
Fruit: Plums, Grapes
Nuts: Walnuts, Chestnuts, Acorns
Herbs and Seasonings: Olive Oil, Liverwort, Leeks, Dried Currants, Parsnips
What Was Not on the Menu
Surprisingly, the following foods, all considered staples of the modern Thanksgiving meal, didn't appear on the pilgrims's first feast table:
Ham: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes: These were not common.
Corn on the Cob: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
Cranberry Sauce: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
Pumpkin Pie: It's not a recipe that exists at this point, though the pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
Chicken/Eggs: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it's unknown how many they had left at this point or whether the hens were still laying.
Milk: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it's possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
So, I know that this pic doesn't compare to the other pics that I post here, but I wanted to share a pic of me. I took this tonight after working out because I wanted to compare it to some other recent pics. I was trying to look at it to see what progress I've made. Still far from where I would like to be but I did see some positive changes.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The Day of the Dead, All Souls Day, is an official holiday of the Catholic Calendar. All Souls Day is on November 2, following All Saints Day.
The choice of November 2 is traditionally attributed to St. Odilo, the fifth abbot of Cluny (city of France famous for the Abby), because he wanted to follow the example of Cluny in offering special prayers and singing the Office of the Dead on the day following the feast of All Saints.
When the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in the land known now as México, they were shocked to discover natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death.
The Aztecs and many other pre-Hispanic civilizations collected skulls as trophies and used them during the ritual. These skulls symbolized death and rebirth. Unlike the Spaniards who viewed death as the end of life, the natives considered it as a continuation of life.
To the natives, life was a dream and only in death they would become awake.
The ritual had been practiced for over 3000 until the Spaniards decided to impose their Christian beliefs and try to eradicate it. But like the old Aztec spirits, the ritual refused to die the Spanish way and continues to live.
Today the Day of the Dead is celebrated in México and in certain parts of Central America and the United States.
People in rural México pay tribute every year by spending the night in the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate the graves with Flores de Muerto (marigold flowerers), toys for the children, and bottles of mezcal for the adults.
In Mexico's larger cities, families build altars dedicated to the dead. They surround the altars with food, skulls made of sugar, candles, sugar cane, pictures of the deceased, and candles.