Offspring of harvest celebration


November 27, 2003

After a year of great sickness and little food, the Pilgrims who had settled in New England were rescued by a good harvest in the fall of 1621.

Fifty-two English settlers celebrated the harvest with more than 90 of their Wampanoag Indian neighbors. In later years, the feast would be called the new country's first Thanksgiving, even though the Pilgrims did not have a regular Thanksgiving themselves.

Today, their colony in Plymouth, Mass., is commemorated with Plimoth Plantation, a re-creation of the original settlement as it would have been in 1627. About 160 people lived there at the time, with perhaps 30 families and 20 single men.

While they might have dined on turkey, they would not have had the sweet potatoes that today are piled on tables across America. Sweet potatoes were not known in New England at the time.

And while they could have picked cranberries, they had no sugar with which to sweeten a sauce.

Our modern celebrations come with healthy helpings of myth.

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