The Second Thanksgiving

November 25, 2008, 10:30 am; posted by
Filed under Articles, David, Featured, Humor  | No Comments

So much has been written about the First Thanksgiving in 1621 that the follow-up celebration in 1622 has been all but forgotten, by historians and citizens alike. At this time of year, I think it would be helpful to look back at that second celebration, to glean what we can from the complex Pilgrim-Indian interplay that helped found this great institution.

Everyone knows that Thanksgiving originated with the feast held in the autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest. It was well-attended by over 90 Wampanoag braves, the great Indian king Massasoit, and his daughter, Princess Pocahontas, who had recently married Cpt. John Smith, precipitating her invitation by Gov. Miles Standish.

The second year was a little different. To begin with, when John Smith informed Pocahontas of the upcoming celebration — and the expected attendance of her relatives — he was rebuffed by her argument that they had “spent every Thanksgiving with his people,” so this year they would spend it with her parents in the Wampanoag encampment. Miles Standish was informed of the change, and after much discussion, he decided that the colonists would make the trek to the Wampanoag Casino Resort Hotel (located near present-day Piscataway, New Jersey) and celebrate by partaking in ancient American rituals including blackjack, roulette and three-card Monte.

Although many colonists were skeptical, they soon took to the ceremonial tents with fervor. Especially intriguing were the “One-Armed Totems,” which allowed a user to deposit a small coin for a chance to receive a small measure of parched corn; the amount varied depending on the alignment of certain mystical figures that spun on three sticks. The bar, the cherry, and the lemon, among other powerful symbols, could produce anywhere from 5 to 500 kernels of corn on a single turn. Many colonists soon found that a simple sack of coins could win them several pockets full of meal. Consider that the “All-You Can-Eat Buffet” was complimentary for anyone who spent the equivalent of five gold sovereigns, and you can see why this should have been the ideal celebration.

But, as everyone knows, the original celebration was three days long, and that’s where the real trouble started. On day two of the second feast, while some of the men were still deeply engaged in ritual wagering, some others had assembled on a green to watch the Redskins play the Pilgrims in a friendly game of touch football (this game, of course, took place before the Pilgrims moved to Dallas and became the Cowboys under Tom Landry). Many female colonists — including Pocahontas — rebelled, announcing that they would not spend the first shopping day of the Christmas season watching football. The women stormed off, in search of a mall rumored to be under development by the Massapequa Indian tribe to the north.

In the fourth quarter, with the Redskins trailing by 2 points, the Pilgrims were expecting an upset. They appeared to hold the home team to a three-and-out with under three minutes remaining, but the Redskins elected to go for it on fourth down. The ensuing play-action pass resulted in an incompletion to the left side, but an Iroquois official threw a late flag and whistled pass interference on the Pilgrims. This put the Indians in field goal range and they nailed a 43-yard kick to win the game.

Needless to say, the colonists were not happy. They had lost their money to the gaming tables, their wives to the mall, and now a shot at the playoffs to what was obviously a “homer job” by a biased official. So that, my friends, is why there was no third Thanksgiving celebration with the Native Americans — and why today we still celebrate separately.


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