Wampanoagan Samoset wanted to help the colonists, but his command of the English language was poor, so he brought Squanto, who knew English well, to teach the Pilgrims new skills including how to grow and prepare indigenous vegetables and fruits.
Colony leader, Captain Miles Standish, invited Chief Massasoit, Squanto, Samoset and about 90 braves to join them for the feast, the first Thanksgiving, in autumn of 1621. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a national holiday. The day used to be the one that ushered in the holiday season which ended on New Year’s Day. Today, Christmas ads and stores begin before Hallowe’en. It appears Thanksgiving is the neglected holiday although the feast remains and employees have a day off because of its status. Since the TV became a fixture in many homes, in addition to dinner, some men and boys watch football while the women and girls clean up after the meal they prepared was eaten.
Foods Served at the First Thanksgiving
Only two brief contemporary accounts of first Thanksgiving feast menu, held at breakfast time, survive. According to these, celebrants ate venison, fowl, fish and wheat breads. While not included in these records, it’s likely that wild rice, rabbit, goose, shellfish, barley, beans, squash, carrots, pumpkin and Indian puddings, popcorn, nuts and cornbread were on the table because these foods were available in 1621.
Turkey, native to America, was, most likely, one of the featured birds because it was and is the traditional “Turkey Day” entrée. A little known fact is that, in the 1500s, European explorers took wild turkeys home from Mexico. They were successfully domesticated throughout the Old World. Among the Pilgrim’s cargo were UK domestic turkeys.
The festivities feature colors, decorations and foods of the three Pagan Harvest Festivals: Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain. Giving thanks for the blessings is shared by all.
Altar cloths and candles and those on the dining table are yellow, maroon, violet, orange, gold, brown russet and/or indigo. Decorations include fall flowers, a basket of fruit, a decanter of wine and/or cider, gourds, vines, acorns, pine cones, cornucopias, sheaves of oat, wheat and/or barley.
A basket of fruit is passed around. Each person chooses a piece of fruit and eats it, savoring the sweetness while giving thanks for the bountiful harvest.
Recipes: A Pagan Feast
Traditional harvest vegetables and fruits include breads, cakes, nuts, acorns, grains, corn, beans, squash, root vegetables, crabapples, dried fruits, berries, pomegranates, grapes, ale, apple juice, wine and cider. Pork is the meat because wild boar sow symbolizes abundance and nourishment.
- Relish tray: Crabapples, grapes, radishes, scallions and sliced raw carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and leeks and accompanied by Harvest Dip.
- Harvest Dip: Blend together 1 C mayonnaise or salad dressing, 12 chopped green olives and
- 2 Tbs sweet pickle relish. Chill overnight.
- Breaded Pork Chops: Dust five chops with flour, dip in 1 well-beaten egg with 1 Tbs water and thoroughly coat with dry bread crumbs. Fry in enough salad oil to cover pan’s bottom, over low to medium-low heat, ten minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Recipe can be doubled. Chops can be prepared the day before, refrigerated and reheated or frozen, thawed and reheated.
- Three Sisters Medley: Combine 1 (16 oz) package each, frozen corn and green or lima beans and 1 C diced zucchini. Simmer in 2 Tbs margarine in covered pan until squash is done and frozen vegetables, thoroughly heated.
- Cranberry/Apple Relish: Prepare 1 lb. package fresh cranberries according to packer’s directions. Let cool. Add 2 C peeled and cored diced apples, 1 C chopped walnuts and ½ C each orange marmalade and juice. Blend thoroughly. Chill overnight.