There are many similarities between the Thanksgiving Americans celebrate today and the first feast proclaimed by Plymouth Plantation Gov. William Bradford in the fall of 1621.

The harvest was pretty good that year, so the Pilgrims just needed to pick up a few things in the nearby forest. The Governor sent four men out to hunt wild turkeys; they returned with ducks and geese instead. Fortunately, Native Americans invited to the feast brought five deer as a hostess gift or it could have been slim pickin’s for 91 Indian braves and 56 settlers. It was much like sending my spouse the Binmeister to Publix for milk, potatoes and cranberry sauce. He’d return with a 20 pound bag of yams, chutney, which he thought would be a nice change, 2 boxes of Krispy Kremes—What? We’re trying to diet here—and, Oops, he forgot the milk. The Pilgrims didn’t have milk either, because someone neglected to put cows on the Mayflower before they left England. Hence the origin of the expression: “Where’s the beef?”

Bradford appointed four women, assisted by two teenage girls—like you’re going to get a lot of help there—to cook, while the men were outside hooting, hollering, smoking cigars and competing with the braves in foot races and jumping matches. Sounds like football to me. Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the women were boiling
pumpkins and seething. They had no wheat, so there was no way they were making pumpkin pies without, at least, Pillsbury ready-made crusts. Necessity is the mother of invention, so they made do, but it’s no wonder they didn’t hold another Thanksgiving for 156 years.

The first time all 13 colonies celebrated Thanksgiving at the same time was in 1777 to commemorate the defeat of the British at Saratoga. George Washington tried to resurrect the tradition in 1789, but colonists wanted to wait until cable was invented to watch the parade and game on TV. It wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving, followed by Friday, a national day of really great sales. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the day back a week to give merchants extra shopping days before Christmas. That upset the citizenry, so two years later, the holiday was returned to the last Thursday in November, and shopkeepers proclaimed Christmas shopping would begin the Friday after July 4th.