I am writing this on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving. Because I like to finish one holiday before leaping ahead to the next, I am making this a quiet day, a space to reflect on what this annual feast, now so narrowly focused on eating and football, really means.
The actual history of Thanksgiving is far more complex, both messier and richer, than the story everyone knows about the Pilgrims inviting the Indians to dinner.
We hear very little about how the Pilgrims stole seed corn from the Nauset Indians of Cape Cod a few days after they arrived, or the fact that the land around Plymouth had already been cleared and cultivated by Pokanokets who had been wiped out by disease shortly before the newcomers arrived, or that when Native American neighbors came to help the Pilgrims they usually showed up naked!
We cheat ourselves when we settle for an oversimplified view of history because the arrival of the Mayflower in Plymouth represents a nitty-gritty struggle for survival which is as relevant today as it was for the residents of Plymouth in the 1620s.