A few things you (probably) don’t know about Thanksgiving

When the Mayflower pilgrims and the Wampanoag sat down for the first Thanksgiving in 1621, it wasn’t actually that big of a deal. Likely, it was just a routine English harvest celebration. More significant—and less remembered—was the peace treaty that the parties established seven months earlier, which lasted for 50 years. (See also: National Geographic Kids: First Thanksgiving.)“There’s in fact very little historical record of the first Thanksgiving, which is why Thanksgiving wasn’t really celebrated as a holiday until the 19th century,” says Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. “To historians, it seems kind of funny that the celebration … now seems more important than the treaty itself.”President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the Civil War, and the feast has since become an American tradition. Yet the story of the Wampanoag and the pilgrims who first broke bread is not commonly known. (See also: Talking Turkey: Facts about Thanksgiving’s Big Bird.)Here’s a little background about the much-mythologized meal.1. It wasn’t actually a “Thanksgiving.”In 1841, Boston publisher Alexander Young printed a book containing a letter by pilgrim Edward Winslow, which described the feast:“[O]ur harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together … [There were] 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.” (See also: National Geographic Kids: First Thanksgiving.) View Images

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