Posted by | November 25, 2010 20:05 | Filed under: Top Stories

James Baker, author of  Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday,  has a piece in the New York Daily News that punches holes in some Thanksgiving myths, and that has some of its posters hopping mad. Americans love to hear about how Pilgrims enjoyed the first Thanksgiving on a peaceful autumn afternoon, with their Wampanoag neighbors enjoying the harvest in harmony. Only it’s not true.

Past Thanksgivings were not always harmonious or comfortable. Some were proclaimed for bloody victories over other Americans, Native or Northern and Southern. Returning home once meant braving perilous conditions far more intimidating than security searches by Transportation Security Administration agents. Social divisions could (and still do) mock the ideal of a uniting holiday spirit, as some enjoyed opulent feasts while others died in battle or starved in wretched conditions.

Thanksgiving likely did not begin in Plymouth in 1621, and there was probably no “first Thanksgiving.”

Forgotten by later generations, it played no role in Thanksgiving tradition until it was rediscovered in 1841. Americans, looking to history for reassurance during the regional tensions that followed the Era of Good Feelings, recruited the conciliatory Pilgrim event to become their emblematic Thanksgiving origin – and thus the holiday we know today was, more or less, born.

And as the original New England Thanksgiving grew more secular, it became an early winter holiday custom that eventually spread throughout the entire nation. Some regions – Virginia in particular – resisted the adoption of this Yankee holiday, although Jefferson Davis proclaimed a nationwide Thanksgiving before Abraham Lincoln did. And while Lincoln did declare the first in the modern sequence of Thanksgivings in 1863, Thanksgiving did not become a legal holiday until 1941.

Although the day was often characterized by racial violence, we have the option of celebrating Thanksgiving as a wonderful opportunity for us to put our differences aside and celebrate the best of America. The true message of the day is our ability to overcome those differences and exercises our higher angels. Somehow, that concept seems disgustingly liberal to those who commented on this story in the Daily News.

  • If I wanted to be subject to this kind of journalism I would have peeled a copy of the Village Voice out of the gutter.
  • Gee thanks, Daily News. Why not keep the leftist propaganda with your brothers at the Times? Go screw yourselves and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Thanksgiving should be a time to be thankful, that for whatever reason, we are here on these shores and able to be in such a country as this. Every Thanksgiving some writer thinks it is a good time to air the dirty laundry.
  • Another self-loathing liberal hater has to…**** in everyone’s good time and show how “evil” us terrible Americans are. Forget it…go cuddle up with your Trotsky, drown yourself in your tofurkey and chai tea and leave us HAPPY people alone.
  • What was the point of this ridiculous screed–trashing Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving?

Uh, understanding history?

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By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.