Why do I celebrate Thanksgiving?  I’ll give you a hint.  It’s not because of the image above.

I celebrate Thanksgiving because I love any excuse to go back to Michigan, hang out with my family, and stuff my face full of food.  If American culture is going to provide me with an excuse to do so I will take advantage of it.  I have the same views concerning Christmas (with the added bonus of presents in addition to the previously stated reasons for celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday).

Most American holidays come with a ready-made mantra for why we celebrate it.  We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the image above.  We celebrate Christmas and Easter because of Jesus (I could explain to you how this is ridiculous, but I’ll leave that for a future post).  We celebrate the 4th of July because we love freedom.  And on and on and on.  If you celebrate these holidays for these reasons that’s fine.  You’re just wrong.  Let me give you a little breakdown of the proper reasons for celebrating a few classic American holidays:

  • New Years.  Reasons for celebrating: Counting down from 10 with 37 other people is fun.  Excuse to get a kiss.  Funny hats.
  • Valentine’s Day.  Reasons for celebrating: Cheap candy the day after.  Excuse to get a kiss.
  • St. Patrick’s Day.  Reason for celebrating: Corned beef and cabbage.
  • Easter.  Reason for celebrating: Cheap candy the day after.
  • My Birthday.  Reasons for celebrating: I am awesome.  Cake.
  • Your Birthday.  Reasons for celebrating: You’re okay, I guess.  Cake.
  • 4th of July.  Reason for celebrating: BOOOOOOM!!!!
  • Halloween.  Reason for celebrating: Cheap candy the day after.

There are many other American holidays, but these are some of the most obvious examples.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving for any reason that has to do with Pilgrims and Indians you should be denied turkey forever.  The people we think of as “The Pilgrims” were nothing but a bunch of thieving, moronic, religious zealots with a poor sense of fashion (why all the buckles?).  The idea that we should proudly trace the lineage of our country to these idiots makes me laugh.

Elementary students all over this country are taught that “The Pilgrims” left England because they wanted religious freedom.  So they sailed over to America on the Mayflower, landed at Plymouth Rock, befriended a bunch of Indians, and then traced their hand to make a turkey.

The real story isn’t very family friendly or simple.  Prepare yourself.  This is going to take a while and may cause vomiting.

“The Pilgrims” were a group of separating Puritans (Puritans who wished to separate themselves from the Church of England) who were not tolerated in England because they wanted to reform it to be more like Calvin’s Geneva.  So they left for The Netherlands, where they met people with similar religious convictions.  However, some of them weren’t cool with Dutch culture (Maybe it was the almond paste.  Who knows).  So some of them left.  I want to point out that not all of them left.  In fact, the majority stayed in The Netherlands.  The rest sailed from Leyden in The Netherlands to Plymouth in England.  From there they thought it would be a good idea to sail across the huge expanse of The Atlantic Ocean with hardly anything resembling a plan.  They left for religious freedom.  The freedom to be completely intolerant of anyone who disagreed with their views.

They were sailing for Virginia.  They landed on Cape Cod.  That’s right, not only did they not land on Plymouth Rock, they weren’t even trying to get there.  They apparently had no idea how to navigate (this theme of “not knowing how to do things” will be repeated over and over).  Not only did they land in the wrong place, but they landed in the wrong place in the beginning of winter with no food.  Great timing.  So they wandered around Cape Cod for a few weeks surviving off of stores of Indian food they found buried on the cape.  The very first thing these Pilgrims did on North American soil was to steal.

Eventually they wandered down to the area now known as Plymouth.  They chose the site because it was near a clean water source and had already been cleared.  The land had already been cleared because there was already a town there.  The Pilgrims didn’t so much found Plymouth as they discovered an already existent native village.  The village was deserted because all the previous inhabitants had died of European diseases brought by earlier European fishermen and traders.  Many people assume that the Pilgrims were the first Europeans to land on the shores of Massachusetts.  Hardly.  In fact, one of the first native people they encountered approached the Pilgrims and said “Hello English.”  This was the famous Squanto; captured years earlier by the Pilgrims’ English brethren on the same shore they now stood upon.

Now they had a place to live.  They were thankful to God, believing that He had cleared the land of the savages who previously inhabited the region.  Sounds like a nice guy.  There was only one problem.  They landed in New England in the beginning of winter with no food.  So half of them died of starvation, disease, exposure, and being stupid and unprepared.

The Wampanoag, whose land the Pilgrims decided was theirs now, most likely looked at these pathetic individuals with bewilderment.  The Pilgrims were obviously no threat.  They had brought women and children with them.  Half of them died during their first winter.  The survivors had no idea how to feed themselves.  The Wampanoag had been devastated by disease and needed allies to keep their Naragansett neighbors off their backs.  So the Wampanoag decided to help the poor strangers and form an alliance.  They taught them how to plant maize and other crops, how to hunt game and fish, and other practical skills they should have figured out how to do before deciding to leave England.

This is where the Thanksgiving celebration comes in.  The Pilgrims had finally made it.  They had a successful harvest and celebrated with their new allies, who brought their own food contributions.

This warm and fuzzy feeling lasted all of about 3 minutes before these Europeans and their descendants decided they didn’t need their native neighbors anymore and started taking their land and slaughtering them by the thousands.  Don’t worry, they turned on themselves as well.  They were quite fond of hanging Quakers and burning “witches” at the stake.

And that, my friends, is the wonderful story of the first Thanksgiving.