Take a second and think about how you would tell the story of the first Thanksgiving in a few sentences. (Yes this is a post about Easter. No you did not enter into a time-warp that took you back to November. Why would you even think such a silly thing?)
I actually did an activity like this at a Thanksgiving party last year, where three different groups performed skits to summarize the event. Here were the main plot points that pretty much everyone included:
- Pilgrims flee religious persecution of some kind.
- They travel to the New World on the Mayflower.
- They land on a rock.
- Lots of them die in the winter.
- The kind Indians help them plant corn.
- They celebrate with a feast.
- And they all lived happily ever after.
Even some of these details were fuzzy to a few people who will remain unnamed. (I overheard one conversation involving whether the Pilgrims arrived before or after Columbus.) But that was the general flow of the summaries.
Everyone probably knew that the Indians who attended the first Thanksgiving didn’t say, “Me eat corn now.” They probably didn’t think that all of the traditional dishes—sweet potatoes with marshmallows?—were served at that feast. And, if I had asked, they could probably have explained how the Pilgrims would have viewed the modern celebration of the holiday (I’m sure they’d love the parade, especially those Rockettes) given their religious beliefs.
But the picture that comes into our heads is the cartoon version, the coloring book plot that was drilled into our heads since we were young enough to wear paper-bag Indian costumes and newspaper pilgrim hats.
In our culture, Thanksgiving is considered a real, historical event…but that’s not what we think of first. We’ve made Thanksgiving into a myth.
To Christians, Jesus’ resurrection is considered a real, historical event…but that’s often not what we think of first, because we’ve made Easter into a myth.