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I would like to share with you a long-time tradition in our family. The following Thanksgiving story is true, as published in 1622 in the short book Mourt’s Relation.
‘On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower dropped anchor in a natural harbor on the inside of the northern tip of Cape Cod. There it stayed. The location was not the Pilgrims’ first choice; they had planned to settle near the mouth of the Hudson.
The area where the ship made landfall had belonged to the Patuxets, a fierce tribe that took intense delight in murdering anyone who would dare invade their territory. A sickness, however, had wiped them out, leaving their land free for the taking. (Other Indians, fearing “bad spirits,” would have no part of it.) The Pilgrims didn’t even have to clear fields for planting. They were already there for them.
The nearest neighbors were the Wampanoags, a civilized tribe ruled by Massasoit. The chief and his people accepted the Pilgrims and helped them. Squanto, a lone survivor of the Patuxets, made his home with this new inhabitants and taught them how to survive in this new and challenging land.
Although the bounty of the summer of 1621 brought a time of heartfelt gratitude (the first Thanksgiving), the Pilgrims’ obligation to repay the backers who had financed their voyage left them dangerously close to starvation. Food stores had all but disappeared.
At one point, a daily ration of food for a Pilgrim was 5 kernels of corn. With a simple faith that God would sustain them, no matter what, they pulled through. History records that not a single one of them died from starvation that winter. Not a one.
The harvest of 1623 brought a surplus of corn, so much that the Pilgrims were able to help out the Indians for a change. So joyous were they that they celebrated a second Day of Thanksgiving and again invited Massasoit to be their guest.
He came, bringing with him his wife, several other chiefs and 120 braves. All sat down to a feast of 12 venison, 6 goats, 50 hogs and pigs, numerous turkeys, vegetables, grapes, nuts, plums, puddings and pies. But, lest anyone forget, all were given their first course on an empty plate.
They were each given 5 kernels of corn.’
In our family it has become a tradition to read a longer version of this tale (from The Light and the Glory) just before we eat our Thanksgiving Dinner. Sometimes we take turns reading portions aloud, passing the book around. Sometimes one person (lots of times it’s me) reads the whole story. By the time we get to the part about the Pilgrims surviving on 5 kernels of corn per day, there are tears all around.
Each person is then served 5 kernels of corn. We eat the corn (through tears) and remember the Pilgrims, say the blessing and then dig in to our feast. It’s a very real way to celebrate this American holiday.
I found this shorter version of the story here.
If you liked this, then you might want to check out my other posts about Thanksgiving!
So tell me, what traditions does your family have at Thanksgiving? Are you going to add this one?
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and wants to change the world. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board and The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.