Sunday, December 25, 2016

The twisted history of Christmas

In the Netherlands Sinterklaas arrives with his helper Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) who stuffs bad boys and girls in a sack and brings them back to Spain. Americans think Santa Claus was a Dutch tradition, but the Netherlands were once part of Spain and Dutch Children await his arrival  each year by ship from Spain, not the North Pole. Zwarte Piet probably derives from a black raven that helped the the God Odin.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Most Christians assume that Christmas traditions go back as far as… well, Christ’s birth. In fact, most were invented during the early 1800’s, many right here in New York. Surprisingly, other Christmas traditions actually predate Christ. I know what you’re thinking: “Dude lay off the eggnog.”

Bear with me.

Have you noticed that it has been getting darker earlier in the day?
Well, ancient cultures in the Northern Hemisphere used to notice it too. They would mark down the days, as they got shorter. The shortest day of the year was called the solstice, meaning “standing still sun”.

The original date of the solstice was December 25th. As the calendar shifted so did the date, this year it falls on Dec. 21st, the official start of winter.

On December 25th in the northern hemisphere, across the globe, folks would gather at night waiting expectantly to see if the sun would come back.  Since the sun was considered to be a god, the thinking was the god was sick and dying and might not come back if you didn’t pray for him.

In Egypt, they venerated Ra the Sun god by decorating homes with green palm fronds to symbolize the triumph of life over death. The Romans venerated Saturn by decorating their temples with evergreen boughs. And so you see, decking the halls actually predates Christmas.

The Chinese considered the Winter Solstice the fulcrum upon which the earth balanced; it was tied into the concept of Yin and Yang.

In Northern Europe evergreens were thought be have magical powers because they could survive the harsh winters and thus were a major part of Pagan worship.

Circular wreaths of evergreens were made to remind folks of the cyclical nature of the season. Winter was coming but if you waited long enough for the dial to turn spring would soon be here.

  If this nature/evergreen stuff interests you check out the legend of the Green Man.

You'll find the Green Man alive living on the facades of buildings all over New York.

You'll also find him alive in images of Santa with Holly and green leaves in his hair.

The Norse myths spoke of Balder a sun god and the son of Frigg (Friday is named for her, it was originally “Frigga’s day”) Similar to the Greek Achilles myth, Balder’s Mom went to earth and got all manner of animal and mineral to agree not to hurt her son. Rocks and metal agreed they wouldn’t form arrows and kill him. But the evil Loki/Loke found out that she hadn’t asked the lowly mistletoe not to hurt Balder.  And so Loki fashioned an arrow made from pointy mistletoe and tricked the blind god of winter to shoot the arrow in the air hitting Balder, mortally wounding the sun. The Winter Solstice party was a bedside vigil to see if he would live another summer.

The Scandinavian custom was to build huge bonfires of logs. It was thought the light of the fire would help reignite the Sun. The festival was called Jule pronounced “Yule” which is how those logs got their names. The logs stayed lit for 12 days (as in the 12 days of Christmas)

The Greeks called their Winter Solstice “Lenaea” the Festival of the Wild Women. The festival, as the name implies, consisted of drinking and Toga flashing. 

The original Greek Girls Sorority gone wild.


Long before Christ’s birth, the Romans,had a post-harvest festival in December called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture, fertility and four-cylinder cars.

It was at this harvest festival that society was turned on its ear. The social order would be inverted. The upper classes would kiss the asses of the lower ones. Masters would serve their slaves. This Carnival was meant to be a safety valve to allow the lower classes to blow off some steam. There was a good deal of carnal fun going on (The root word for carnal and carnival means flesh or meat). Public nudity was condoned. Since Saturn was the god of fertility -- wife swapping, and servant girl swapping was a popular feature. Society officially let down its hair and condoned lots of public drinking and philandering. It was all kind of like a Girls Gone Wild Video minus Snoop Dawg.

(If you’re interested in the salacious stuff read a book called ‘The Battle for Christmas.” Published by Knopf)

When the Christians got sick of being lion-feed in the Coliseum they took over Rome. And as we’ve discussed in other posts, the Church attempted to smother pagan celebrations by imposing Christian feast days upon them. So in an attempt to redirect some of that wild libido they decreed that on December 25th there would be a mass to celebrate Christ’s birth. The olde English for mass of Christ “Cristes Maesse” would become --Christmas.

And even though Christ’s birthday was probably in spring (shepherds in the Holy Land would only have been tending their sheep in spring, not winter) they set it in the middle of this bacchanalian feast. They intentionally chose the exact same feast day that Pagans venerated their powerful god Mithra, December 25th.  Which was also the birthday of another powerful pagan God called Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris.

For the record, the idea that Dec. 25th is Jesus’ birthday was conceived by one Pope Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 AD. The earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas is in a manuscript from 354 AD.

So did Christmas eradicate the pagan customs?

Kinda, maybe.  A little.

The Church continued to try to overlay Christian themes upon the season. Pagan Germans venerated evergreens. It is said that in the 7th Century a monk in a St. Patrick like trick used the visual of a fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity. By the 12th century Germans were hanging them upside down from their ceilings to symbolize Christianity. Christmas trees only became popular outside of Germany when the German Prince Albert married the English Queen Victoria and brought his tree to the English Court in 1846. In the U.S. Christmas trees began to become common after the Civil War. The first American patent for a Christmas tree stand was granted in 1876.

It was taught that pagan holly was symbolic of Christ. The sharp edges symbolized Christ’s crown of thorns and the red berries his blood.

None of this boosted the Christmas story.

Through the Middle Ages Christmas was a lesser feast day overshadowed by Easter and the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus and the visit of the Magi –We Three Kings and all that.  I’ll explain the Epiphany in a post in a few weeks. But the celebration of the Epiphany underscored two holiday themes. One was the concept of adults (Kings) giving gifts to children (infant Jesus.) The other was it reflected the idea of inverted social order “kings” bearing gifts for a poor child in a manger.

In fact, through the years children looked forward to New Year’s Day, the Epiphany, or the Feast of St. Nicholas because those were the days they were given treats or gifts. On Epiphany Eve children would leave hay out for the 3 Wise Men’s camels.  Eventually this would become leaving carrots out for Santa’s Reindeer.

In Italy, the tale was of a witch called LaBefana who was asked by the 3 Wise Dudes to accompany them. She declined. Then changed her mind, hopped on her broomstick to look for them. To no avail. So on Jan 6th  (The Epiphany) LaBefana (name derived from epiphany) flew down every chimney in the world and left a present for every child in the world hoping one would be the Christ Child. Which is why children in Italy waited for the Epiphany, not Santa.

The point is Christmas wasn’t all that important.

And the randy Bacchanalian stuff?

Well traditions die hard.  Some were merely bent a bit. In the Middle Ages, the custom of inverting the class structure transformed into a custom where gangs of low class folks would go door to door at Christmas demanding food, drink and coin. They would “Wassail” similar to assail the homes of the well-to-do threatening to burn down the house if they didn’t get grog. (We now call this caroling and the carolers now demand hot cocoa). Mumming was a big ritual. Men would dress as women and vice-versa and they’d traipse drunkenly through the village.  The Mummers parade in Philadelphia on New Year’s Day is one last legacy of this. Still to this very day blue-collar plumbers and steamfitters dress up like Vegas showgirls in feathered costumes and parade through the streets of Philly. The parade was nationally televised until the 1960’s when the networks pulled the plug over concerns that there were racist overtones to the parade.
Philadelphia Mummers marching on New Year's Day

All this naughty behavior became to be known as “Misrule.” The Season of Misrule began on Dec.6th and ended on New Year’s Day.

Why the communal kookiness?  
In agrarian economies the work was all done by the end of fall. There were stores of grain, the beer was brewed. The traditional butchering time on the farm was done the first week of December (St. Nicholas Feast Day) since there was no refrigeration you had to wait until the temperature dropped so the meat wouldn’t spoil as you salted it for the winter.  December would be your last taste of fresh meat for a while. There was no work to do, there was food and drink a plenty, so let’s party. This was true from 1500’s through the early 1800’s

The ruling classes knew not to mess with the working class Dec- New Year’s Mardi Gras of drinking and booby flashing.

In the middle of all this the Protestant Reformation occurred in 1517.

After the Reformation there was great debate amongst Protestants about what to do about Christmas.  The pagan aspects of Saturnalia were still pretty close to the surface.  For a while when the Puritans took over England they criminalized Christmas. In puritanical colonies like Massachusetts, you were legally prohibited from taking off on Christmas day. It was assumed you were up to no good. Even here in the U.S. Christmas Day wasn't generally a holiday.  Christmas wasn't officially declared a Federal holiday until 1870, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. 
The German celebration of Christmas would be the most familiar to a modern day celebrant. They gave gifts to children and it was in fact, Martin Luther who brought the tree into the Christmas story. The Germans would tie their presents to the tree, little dolls for girls and horns and drums for boys.  It’s the reason why many folks nowadays put little drums and horn ornaments on their tree, not realizing they’re continuing this old practice. The Germans were also big on Biblical pageants during the holidays. A favorite was the story Adam and Eve. Apple trees were bare in winter so an evergreen with red apples tied to the branches would be substituted. And still today some folks decorate their trees with red apples, not knowing why

The Protestants also had another problem.  Many Protestant denominations rejected the Saints of the Catholic Church. One of those saints –St. Nicholas had become widely, wildly popular. His feast day of Dec 6th was celebrated by the giving of small gifts or candy to children.

Who was St. Nicholas?
There may never, in fact, have ever been a Saint Nicholas. Tradition holds that St. Nicholas was a Greek bishop stationed in Myrna, Turkey who performed assorted good deeds. I’ve never read it but my guess is he was a member of the Greek Orthodox Catholic church.

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Greece, Rome and the City of New York. Ole Nick is supposed to have died in 321 AD. The citizens of Bari, Italy sent a delegation to Turkey to dig up his bones and placed them in a basilica in their town.

His feast day is on December 6th.

In the 1960’s the Roman Catholic Church started investigating Nick trying to separate fact from fiction. Eventually at a religious conference called Vatican II, St. Nicholas was demoted and dropped from the Roman Catholic Liturgical calendar. In other words, his feast day need not be celebrated.

One of the reasons the RC church was worried about ole Nick is that there is a strong feeling that his legend evolved from various Gods of the Sea and other ancient evil pagan characters. It is thought his legend may have been one part Pan – the mischievous nature spirit and one part Eros the randy man. Pan had a goatee beard and the hindquarters and sexual habits of a goat. The sight of Pan could sow fear into people, which is where we get the word “panic.” He was also pictured as a god of the sea.

You’ll notice that in some older images of Santa he is holding a branch in his hand. The older evil gnome character used to whip children if they were bad. This stuff gets way too involved and depresses people to no end. So, if you are interested in learning more about the horny-toad version of Santa read a book called “Santa was a Shaman” by Tony Van Renterghem it will make your head spin.
In olden times the Germans had a strange version of St. Nick. He was called Pelznickel (pelz as in pelts—furry Nick). He wore furs and tattered clothes and carried a sack and chains. Pelznick would break into a home, rattle his chains and threaten to kidnap children if they weren’t good. Sometimes forcing them to recite poems and answer questions before he left them treats. Kind of like a reverse trick or treat on kids. Explains a lot about the Germans. When German immigrants got to the U.S. his name was corrupted into Belznickel.

The nice legends of Bishop Nicholas are numerous. In one he learns that some young women lack a dowry to get married and he tosses three bags of gold into their open window. Thus he became the patron saint of brides. His coin tossing also made him the patron saint of moneylenders.
The 3 gold balls in front of a pawnshop were originally St. Nick’s 3 bags of gold.

In another, Saint Nicholas was onboard a ship during a storm. He caused the storm to subside (think Sea God) and was thus was also considered the patron saint of sailors. And that’s how ole St. Nick immigrated to America.

The Dutch were big sailors. In the 1600’s they brought the patron saint of sailors with them to New Amsterdam (New York.) The Dutch called Saint Nicholas “SinterKlaas” and a bastardized, anglicized pronunciation of that became: Santa Claus.

Okay so if you’re a concerned Protestant parent who has been told that you’re supposed to reject Catholic Saints, how do you replace beloved Saint Nick?

It was at that point that many of the Protestant countries went ransacking through their cultural attic and pulled out an old pagan custom. They reinvented their old god of winter. A large portly man in a green fur lined coat and turned him into a non-Catholic Saint version of Santa. The ancient figure who went by the names: Father Winter, King Winter, King Frost, Jack Frost, was now called Father Christmas. In Dicken's Christmas Carol, it was Father Christmas who visits Scrooge, not Santa. Notice he carries a wreath with him and has holly in his hair. He is a holdover of the Pagan Green Man.

Father Christmas

The Germans tried to pull Christ back into the story by inventing  Krist-Kindl, or the Christ-Child. Instead of St. Nick giving gifts to kiddies the Krist-Kindl would do it. In German villages a cherubic child would ride a mule into town and deliver gifts. The mule couldn’t fly, didn’t have a red nose or nuthin, so he couldn’t compete with Santa. Eventually all that was left of him was that he became a nickname for Nick –Kris Kringle.
Okay, so if we can’t have St. Nick we can have Father Christmas.
But Christmas still looks like a Fergilicious video. What to do? What to do?

In the 1800’s Victorian Society had had enough. It decided to wrest control of Christmas away from the lower classes and re-direct the holiday to a more family focused event. One reason it was able to do that is because of the Industrial Revolution had begun. People were moving off the farms and starting to work in factories. They didn’t have as much dangerous leisure time.

The major cultural forces for the Upper Classes taking control of Christmas came out of New York and London. The London part probably makes sense to you --  Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Scrooge and all that.

But why New York?  Because hordes of low class immigrants, mostly Irish Catholics, were beginning to settle on the island. And it was scaring the bejazzus out of the old Knickerbockers and Yankees who were becoming minorities in their own town.  This was touched upon in the movie “Gangs of New York”

So 3 WASP New Yorkers got together and decided to reinvent Christmas. They were, Clement Clarke Moore, Washington Irving and Irving’s brother-in-law John Pintard.

These were the people who invented Santa Claus, as you know him.
Pintard was one of the founders of the New-York Historical Society, which chose St. Nicholas as their patron saint and made him the official Patron Saint of New York. At a Society dinner in 1810 Pintard whipped out illustrations showing Nicholas, two children, and stockings hung from a fireplace. The bedrock upon which the story would be built.

Pitard's St. Nick.
Moore, of course, is credited with the poem “A visit from St. Nicholas.” commonly known as “Twas the Night before Christmas.”

But two years before the poem Pintard described to him a scene at his Wall Street home on New Year’s Eve.  He heard a racket outside his door. And in effect…From outside heard such a clatter rose from his bed to see what was the matter. What he spied outside was a group of drunken rowdy men banging pans, kettles and playing tin horns. Groups like this were a common sight and were called Callithumpian bands. Probably from the Greek Muse Calliope, the Goddess of Eloquence, this in an ironic sense. The callithumpians were out for some holiday misrule. ( The French word for Callithumpian bands was “charivari.”) Misrule and mob violence was pretty normal this time of year.  In 1828, after one particularly violent Christmas riot the city decided to form the New York Police Department.

Pintard’s brother-in-law, Washington Irving, wrote extensively about Dutch New York and the Hudson River valley, inventing Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane. In the 1800’s, he wrote a hit book called “Diedrick Knickerbocker’s History of New-York.” It was the faked diary of old Dutchman. It became so popular that a “knickerbocker” became a nickname for a native New Yorker. And that’s why NY’s basketball team is called the Knickerbockers –the Knicks.

In his book, Irving explained that it was Santa Claus who told the Dutch to settle here on Manhattan Island. Since he mistakenly thought Santa was Dutch, Irving invented some supposed Dutch Christmas "traditions" making up the idea that this Saint could disappear by touching the side of his nose.  He also fabricated from whole cloth a picture of how the traditional Dutch Christmas celebrations centered around family with peace and love between the classes used to be celebrated in New Amsterdam. It wasn’t true but he had invented “tradition.” And then he and his friends went around lamenting how as New York was growing larger “the old ways are being lost.”

Charles Dickens wrote to Irving telling him that he was greatly influenced by his Christmas interpretation. He also said that his Jacob Marley character was inspired by shackled prisoners he saw here in NY at the infamous Tombs prison downtown near Foley Square. (You can see an original copy of “A Christmas Carol” on display at the Morgan Library on Madison Avenue.)

Washington Irving’s co-conspirator, Clement Clarke Moore, owned the Chelsea Section of New York and was therefore decidedly not of the lower classes. Moore is generally given credit for writing the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas."  Some claim a relative of his in the Livingston family was the actual author. Here’s a site that explains the debate:

Moore’s Santa --
Skinny and wearing plebian garb and a stub of a pipe. 
The upper classes smoked long pipes.

One interesting thing in the poem is -- since Moore thought Santa was Dutch he gave some of his reindeer Dutch names. Their original names were Donder and Blixem –thunder and lightning. Over the years that has become corrupted into Donner and Blitzen.

The poem borrowed a bunch of cross-cultural myths and inserted them into the St. Nick story. The Teutonic God Thor used to fly across the sky in a sleigh pulled by goats. The poem turned them into miniature reindeer. (If you listen closely to the poem you’ll realize Santa was a dwarf – a right jolly old elf) Moore also borrowed the LaBefana Witch Epiphany story from Italy. And thus Santa is now coming down chimneys. One reason why Santa was tiny may have been so that he could get down those chimneys.

The most important thing this poem did was to move Santa's wanderings from his usual trekking on his feast day Dec 6th, to the night before Christmas --Christmas Eve. Linking the fat man with the Christ child. An original draft of the poem is on display at the New-York Historical Society (that’s not a typo New York used to be called New-York.) Each year on the Sunday before Christmas the poem is read uptown at the Church of the Intercession, afterwards there’s a procession to the grave of Moore in the Trinity Cemetery at 155th Street.

One other thing to help you understand the mindset of Moore as he wrote the poem was the fact the City had just laid out it’s street grid and plotted Ninth Avenue to go right through the middle of his estate. The City claimed the land for 9th Avenue using the right of eminent domain. Moore really wished things could go back to the way they were before and really wanted all those low class people going past his home to learn how to behave.

The poem helped to make Christmas the child-centered holiday it is today. It also deftly took the Saturnalia concept of inverted class structure and shifted it to family. The adults would now serve the children.

It worked like gangbusters.
But of course, from our vantage point 180 years later it’s easy to see the irony that Santa was moved to Christmas Eve in an attempt to counteract the Pagan influences upon Christmas. The outcome being that the fat man has edged out the Christ Child in the Christmas story.

If you need further proof that Christmas was “invented” in the 1800’s here’s a little test. Try to find a Christmas visual before the Victorian era. You’ll only find Christ in the Manger visuals, because Christmas as you know it didn’t really “exist” until the 1800’s.  Further proof is to look at the dates when our “ancient” traditional songs were written:

Silent Night 1818
O come All Ye Faithful 1841
Joy to the World 1848
Hark the Herald Angels Sing 1856.

The New York influence: 
As I mentioned, New York has had an outsized influence on the modern celebration of Christmas. One reason was that in the 1800’s it was becoming a major force in popular culture.

Nast's Santa

During the American Civil War A NY illustrator, Thomas Nast, gave Santa his face, even had this Greek Bishop hold a long Dutch clay pipe because he read in the Irving stories that he was Dutch.  Nast chubbed Santa up. He was no longer a scrawny little elf, no longer lower class.

Nast was the person who put Santa’s home in the North Pole. Most European legends held that Santa was from Lapland. A NY financier, Morris Jessup, was paying for an American expedition to be the first to reach the North Pole. It was a big story in the paper that Nast worked for. Nast imagined that they would find Santa there.

Nast’s Northpole Santa
Actual genuine Dutch tradition held that Sinter Klaas came from Spain. He was also accompanied by a helper, Black Peter, Zwairte Piet who would punish bad children.

The New York Sun wrote the editorial “Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus”. It stood where Pace University stands today across from City Hall.

Go read the editorial, it’s pure pleasure:

Clement Clarke Moore’s home was at 21st street and 9th Ave. The place where the world’s first Christmas Eve Santa sighting took place.

O'Henry wrote the classic story of Christmas sacrifice " The Gift of the Magi" in Pete's Tavern on of all streets Irving Place.
Currier & Ives had their shop at 115 Nassau Street in the Financial District and sold millions of lithos of sleighing and skating scenes in Central Park.

The world premier of Handel’s Messiah was held at the City Hotel across the street from New York’s City Hall.

The first American Christmas cards were printed in 1851 by a New York engraver, Richard Pease.

New Yorker Joshua Lionel Cowen invented Lionel trains. And helped make New York the center of the American Toy industry.

Norman Rockwell worked and published all his Christmas favorites at the Saturday Evening Post on Madison Avenue.

In the mid 1800’s a New York man started a shipping company by placing an ad in NY papers that said every Saturday he took his wagon up to Boston. Contact him and he’d take your parcel.  His express shipping business was engulfed with Christmas parcels. He encouraged people to ship them before December and invented a tag to place on them that read: DO NOT OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS. The firm is still in business a few blocks from where it started. It is now called the American Express Company.

Irving Berlin, a Jewish New Yorker wrote "White Christmas" right here in the city Jesse Jackson called “Hymietown.”

The world’s first Christmas ads appeared in the NY Post.

And as we all know when Santa isn't working at the North Pole he's temping over on 34th Street at Macy's.

In 1874 when Macy’s only store was still at 6th Ave and 14thstreet, they set up a tableau in their windows of hundreds of dolls illuminated by gaslight. The crowds were so huge that they lined the steps of the old 6th Avenue Elevated train causing delays.  By 1883 Macy’s had introduced steam powered moving mechanical figures. A new tradition had begun --decorated Christmas window spectaculars.

The New York celebration of Christmas became all the rage across America. Other cities added things —Boston had the first Department store Santa. A Chicago department store invented Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer as free coloring book they gave out at their stores. Santa had been Americanized and commercialized.
And eventually like all American things The New York Christmas became a cultural tsunami that has rolled across the world. Today you’ll find the New York Santa in Tokyo department stores and standing in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

So to come full circle, in the end did Christmas really shuck off its pagan undertones?


The Christmas tree is pagan.
The Christmas wreath is pagan.
The Holly and evergreens are pagan.
The Yule log is pagan
The Mistletoe is pagan

(And is perfect for the hidden sexual side of Saturnalia.)

Santa, Father Christmas and Pere Noel come from Pagan tradition.

The carolers are still wassailing.

The mummers are still parading.

The callithumpian bands still come out with their noisemakers each year in Times Square.

Saturnalia’s inversion of the class structure and kowtowing to the lower classes still exists in the concept that at Christmas you have to give a gift to anyone who is lower than you on the social ladder: the doorman, the mailman etc. Similarly, bosses give bonuses to their slaves, err workers. Officers in the Royal Navy still have to serve common sailors on Christmas Day.  The Brits still celebrate Boxing Day on Dec. 26th a day to give gifts to those below you. (Workers used to walk around with a little “Christmas box” where you would place your tip, thus “Boxing Day.”)

The excessive drinking, carousing and sexual side of Saturnalia remains alive in the office Holiday party and New Year’s Eve bashes.

So as you can see, over the years Christmas has changed and it hasn’t.

In 2000 years we’ve turned a late December agrarian orgy into a holiday that has the twin billing of the Christ Child born in a manger and a fat old Greek bishop in red religious robes, smoking a Dutch clay pipe, with flying reindeer doing his global breaking and entering routine.

Man my head hurts.

Merry Christmas.

Happy Saturnalia. And a wicked Wild Women Day to all.

Lord of Misrule

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Twisted History of Thanksgiving Day. And its connection to the KKK.

Cultures around the world have historically celebrated their harvests with thanksgiving ceremonies. The Greeks thanked Demeter, goddess of grain. The Romans had a similar goddess called Ceres, from whom we get the word cereal, her festival was called Cerelia and was held on Oct 8th. The ancient Egyptians celebrated their harvest festival in honor of Min, their god of vegetation and fertility. The Chinese celebrated their harvest festival called Chung Ch'ui. The Jewish autumnal celebration is called Sukkoth, the English have autumnal feasts, the Germans have Oktoberfest.

We Americans are the only turkeys who actually celebrate with turkeys.

So some history:
Thanksgiving is the preeminent American holiday. It deals with our forefathers being led by God to this virgin land and through hard work and fair play turning the wilderness into one of the world's great civilizations.

It's a nice story. However, several important things were left out of the story. It's pretty obvious that the Native Americans have their own version of events. But there’s another group left entirely out of the story -- the Spanish. They had settlements in the New World a full hundred years before the English. More to the point, the first known thanksgiving feast in North America was celebrated by Francisco Vasquez De Coronado when he dined with the Teya people in May of 1541--- in of all the non-New Englandy places but Texas.

French Huguenots in Jacksonville Florida held the 2nd Thanksgiving celebration in 1564. There were no known native guests but I’ll bet the Frenchies ate better than the Puritans up in New England. The third Thanksgiving was held by Spaniards right after they massacred those French Huguenots, when Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles put on a feedbag with the natives in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565.

Despite these facts, we nail our hat to the notion that America is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant nation and so went looking for a proper English origin for our country and settled upon the Pilgrims. Yet even the English had earlier settlements than Plymouth. Jamestown, Virginia was founded 12 years prior. We don't trace our origins back to Jamestown because it was a disastrous failure ---those pilgrims feasted upon each other. Cannibalism makes a poor foundation to build a myth upon.

So selected history has skipped over the Spanish, the French and Jamestown and instead chosen the Pilgrims.

Okay, let's start with them.

They were called Pilgrims.


The term "Pilgrims," referring to religious travelers, wasn't used to describe the early Plymouth colonists until the early 1800s, when someone found a phrase used by the 2nd Governor of the Colony, William Bradford "they knew they were pilgrims" and that became their cleaned- up alias as we reinvented the Puritans. Before we discover why America needed to reinvent the Puritans, let’s find out a thing or two about them. By the way, a great way to learn about them is to read MAYFLOWER by Nathan Philbrick.

The Pilgrims were Puritans. Puritans were religious fundamentalists (Did someone say Taliban?) who believed that the Protestant Reformation hadn’t gone far enough to eradicate the influence of the Catholic Church in merry Ole England. They felt the Church of England was merely the Catholic Church dressed up in other vestments. They intended to purify the Church of England. The people we call Pilgrims called themselves ‘Separatists.” Because they were on the radical fringe of the Puritan sect. They didn’t believe that the Church of England could be made more “pure”. Instead they wanted to separate and form their own religious haven somewhere outside of England. First in the Netherlands and then the land of the free, home of the five-dollar footlong.

Puritans didn't celebrate standard Christian holidays, no Christmas, Easter, no nothin'. They celebrated the Sabbath and had two other religious days held whenever warranted. There was a day of fasting that was held when bad things happened. When good things happened, they had a day of thanks for God's providence. These two special days were never held on the Sabbath, instead they were usually held on meeting day - Thursday. Which is how Thanksgiving Day wound up on a Thursday.

They were also millenialists; people who believed the end times were at hand. And that in 1620, as foretold in Revelations, the world was entering into the Time of the Saints. In 1618 a comet had appeared across Europe. It was considered the starting gun for the end times. But first there would be a thousand year reign by Christ before the final judgment. At first they felt that England was the New Jerusalem and later decided that America was the New Jerusalem. (They wouldn’t be the last religious group to hold that belief. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons –another separatist who would take his congregation outside the United States to the Indian territory of Utah-- not only believed that America was the New Jerusalem, he thought it was also the old one. He claimed that the Garden of Eden had been in Missouri. Hmmm. Adam and Eve walked around naked; maybe that’s why it’s called the Show Me State.)

Oddly enough after they were settling in New England and lost half of their colony to disease, the plain old Puritans back in England actually took over the place. Oliver Cromwell one hard-ass Puritan defeated the Royal forces in the English Civil War, had the King executed and made himself Lord Protector and began instituting a Puritan nation. And as an aside he slaughtered untold tens of thousands in Ireland and Scotland. Cromwell was the cause of “The Troubles” in Ireland. He gave his protestant soldiers most of the land in Northern Ireland as payment for services rendered. He died and was buried in Westminster Abbey. When the Royalist took over again, his body was disinterred, beheaded, and left hanging outdoors for a few years.

So to wrap it up-- the name "Puritan" doesn't hold a lot of positive connotations. Their reputation wasn't enhanced much after the Salem Witch hunts. "Pilgrim" sounds so much nicer.

Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving non-stop since T-1 back in 1621 

Their 1621 three-day potluck dinner was the first Survivor Cast Party.
Half the colony had died over their first winter. In 1621 thanks to the injuns they had a good harvest -- they’d live another winter, let’s party on down.

1622 went without a Thanksgiving.

Then in 1623 a drought ending rain sent by God was reason enough for a 2nd Thanksgiving party. It’s unclear if any Natives attended.

From then on it there wasn’t an annual autumnal feast, just the sporadic Day of Thanks when something good happened.

I’m getting the impression that some of what I learned about the first Thanksgiving isn't true.

Pretty much. But what's important isn't that you were taught a false history. The interesting thing is why you were taught this little morality play.

You undoubtedly learned back in grade school that:

A. The Pilgrims carved a civilization out of an uninhabited wilderness. 
The New World wasn't uninhabited land waiting to be settled. The estimated population of Europe at the time of Columbus was 70 million. The population of the Americas (North & South) is put at 100 million. History acknowledges the advanced societies of the Aztecs and Mayans and their vast cities. But we are told that the North American natives were wild savages. Did anyone ever tell you about Cahokia, Illinois, a Native American settlement with a population of 40,000? No, of course not, if the Natives had settlements then we really couldn't call the Pilgrims "settlers" could we?

The truth is there were no cloven-hoofed animals in the Americas and thus when the East Coast natives began having contact with European traders they had no immunity to the garden-variety anthrax and other diseases like smallpox that the Europeans brought with them.

(They did have some payback though, they gave Europeans venereal disease. In Native Americans it manifested itself as a minor flu virus. When it hit Europe it became deadly. So it's somewhat odd that the Europeans gave the disease a humorous name. The word “venereal” comes from Venus the goddess of love.)

In Massachusetts members of the well-established Wampanoag settlement had been wiped out by plague contracted from Europeans. King James II gave thanks to "Almighty God in his great goodness and bounty towards us for sending this wonderful plague among the savages." When the Puritans arrived they took over the homes, possessions and most important-- the already cleared fields. The remaining natives were kind to the Puritans because their decimated tribe desperately needed allies to protect them against their enemy, the Narragansetts. The Puritans had guns.
Actual Photo taken by Mayflower Passenger Ezikiah Kodak

B. The Pilgrims were headed for Virginia but a storm blew their tiny Mayflower off-course and God guided them to Plymouth. 

Well kinda.

They were headed for the future site of New York City, which the English considered the northern boundary of Virginia; the western boundary was the Pacific Ocean. But Henry Hudson working for the Dutch had already sailed up the river that bears his name in 1609. And the Dutch were already making plans to start a colony there. Which they did 4 years after the Puritans landed in Plymouth. While the Puritans were living in the Netherlands the Dutch offered them a patent to colonize New York. When the Puritans turned down the offer it’s believed that the Dutch sabotaged their efforts to sail, delaying their journey so that they arrived in winter.

They got lost along the way and couldn’t get the Mayflower to clear the shoals off Cape Cod and instead just went ashore.

There’s also an unlikely conspiracy theory out there that the Puritans were headed to New England all along. Remember Squanto from the story, the kind Indian who taught them how to place a fish in the ground when they planted corn? He really did exist. He had been kidnapped by sailors and brought to Europe as a slave. He learned English and met with Fernando Gorges, the leader of the Plymouth Company BEFORE they left England for Holland and told them about his beautiful village of Pawtucket, which the Puritans would later rename "Plimouth."

C. The Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock.

Sorry. Never happened. The exploring party landed in Plimouth/Plymouth/Patuxet on December 21, 1620. Not one of them ever mentioned anything about a rock in their journals. William Bradford, one of those “pilgrims” wrote the seminal book: Of Plimouth Plantation. He never mentioned a rock. In later years, the rock part was dreamt up to add a "Upon this rock I will build my church/ nation" twist to the story. This supported the theme that America was the New Jerusalem.

Whatareyatalkinabout? I’ve seen it. I’ve been to Plymouth Rock, stood on the marble altar looking down at it, the very bedrock of our nation.

Yeah, well that rock was plopped there in 1920. Remember that year when we talk about immigration later on in this post.   The first recorded mention of the rock was in 1741, a full 121 years after the supposed event. Some 94-year-old coot told folks that his pappy told him that a rock in the harbor was where the “Pilgrims” had set foot.  Townsfolk dug up a portion of the rock and put it into storage and forgot it. 300 years after the landing when the Pilgrims had been rediscovered it was rediscovered and placed at its present site. An “altar” was built around it so that Americans had a proper place to worship our newly minted origin myth.

D. Thanksgiving was the very first Woodstock

Peace and love between Whites and Natives. The Puritans were only slightly less brutal to the Native Americans than other colonists. They took a few shots at the first native they sighted. They then immediately looted the homes and graves of the natives. Up until the Mid-1800's the few visuals that depicted Puritans, were usually battle scenes. One you may have seen is of Puritans fleeing a shower of arrows. They didn't carry those cute little muskets for nuthin. Within 50 years of the Mayflower’s landing most of the New England natives were decimated. You know about the Mayflower carrying a ship full of colonists, but have you ever heard of the Seaflower? It was a ship that left Plymouth fifty years later loaded to the gills with Indians being sold as slaves to work in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

To recap: 
They weren't called Pilgrims, it wasn't called Plymouth, there was no Plymouth Rock, and they didn't get along too well with the natives. They didn't carve a civilization from out of the wilderness. And God didn't lead them there. There was however turkey and some tasteless sugar-free pumpkin pie if that makes you feel any better.

Okay, so then how did this one shot celebration of a few religious extremists become a beloved national holiday?

It's pretty simple. All cultures have an origin myth. Whether it is Romulus and Remus being raised by wolves and founding Rome, or Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. (And before I get comments from those who believe in the literal existence of Adam and Eve --remember the definition of a myth: a traditional story accepted as history that serves to explain the worldview of a people)

Anthropologists lay out certain rules for origin myths:

1. It constitutes the history of the acts of the founders
2. It is considered to be true.
3. It tells how an institution came into being
4. In performing the ritual associated with the myth (think of turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie) one experiences knowledge of the origin and claims one's patriarchy.
5. Thus one lives "the myth" as a religion.

So Thanksgiving has become our quasi-religious holiday, where our families gather around the altar (the dining room table) and recount the story of how God gave this land to us Anglo-Saxon Protestants, or if you prefer –us White folk.

The odd thing is that the Father of our Country, George Washington would be totally lost if you invited him to your Thanksgiving Dinner with the cute little cardboard cutouts of Pilgrims on the table. Why? Because the Pilgrim story of Thanksgiving really didn't take hold in America until the late 1880's.

George would have known that up in New England they celebrated an autumnal feast. But it was strictly a regional celebration. There was good reason why Thanksgiving was big in New England. When the Puritans controlled the Colony, they disliked the pagan origins of Christmas celebrations and so for many years it was illegal to take off on Christmas Day in Massachusetts.

"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."

From the records of the General Court,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659 

In England the Christmas feast was traditional. So New Englanders who weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas coped by turning the New England Thanksgiving celebration into a food feast, an oral orgy with traditional Christmas foods and pies.

Other regions of the country where Christmas was indeed celebrated began looking jealously at New England. Why couldn’t they have a food orgy in autumn too? It kind of reminds me of Christian children who complain that they don’t get 8 days of Hanukkah gifts, too.

If you Google Days of Thanksgiving the results are very confusing, because there were other days in other colonies called Days of Thanksgiving, but these had nothing to do with Puritans.

On Nov. 1, 1777 The Continental Congress suggested a National Thanksgiving be held. But it was in response to the defeat of the British General Burgoyne in Saratoga, New York. For that matter the Queen of England declared a Thanksgiving Day when the Spanish Armada was defeated.

After the War of 1812, New York State declared a Statewide Day of Thanksgiving.

But by the mid-1800’s other states began to celebrate a Thanksgiving Day. This had nothing to do with Pilgrims, Indians or the NFL. It was merely the growing popularity of a Yankee celebration that moved west with settlers from the Northeast. Kind of like the present day growing popularity amongst Anglos of the Mexican Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Which is where Sarah Josepha Hale comes into the picture.
She was a New England gal. A writer. You know one of her poems: Mary had a little lamb. She was the Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey of her day. She was also the editor of a very influential women’s magazine called Godey’s Ladies Book. It not only contained articles like “Refreshing Drinks for Summer ” It also introduced women readers to the likes of Goethe and Cervantes. She became a one-woman committee to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote non-stop letters to legislators. As tensions heated up before the Civil War she promoted a National day of Thanksgiving as a way to prevent hostilities. Didn’t work.

Here’s one of her editorials if you’re interested:

We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States -- as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope, will this year be adopted by all -- that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY Of NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people.
Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of wordliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart…

Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing. These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling. Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the "feast of fat things," and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men. Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world.

During the Civil War the South declared a National Day of Thanksgiving after their victory at Bull Run. Not to be outdone, President Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving for April 13th, 1862 to celebrate the Union victory at Shiloh, and again on Aug. 6th, 1863 for the victory at Gettysburg.

But the idea of a national holiday where we sat down ate and gave thanks for our abundant blessings didn’t take traction until ole Abe declared a National Day of Thanksgiving for the fourth Thursday of November in 1863.

Here’s the Proclamation in Abe’s own words:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

After Abe, every single President would annually declare a National Day of Thanksgiving. (It took many years before Thanksgiving became popular in the South. It was considered just another piece of Yankee cultural imperialism being forced upon poor Dixie.) The date of Thanksgiving would hop around. Eventually it fell upon the last Thursday in November. But more important, as you may have noticed in the above proclamation there was no mention of the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, Puritans or any of that crap.

They weren't mentioned until Hebert Hoover's proclamation in 1931.

How did the Pilgrims reappear after 300 years?

Beginning in the late 1800's the Puritans began to re-emerge, repackaged and repositioned. They were characterized as religious pilgrims on a divine mission to carve a civilization out of the wilderness. Considering the fact that the West had just been "won" and the Native Indian population wiped out, this was a very convenient myth to bandy about. It was our Destiny, our Manifest Destiny to own this land.

The myth of the Pilgrims (like the myth of Columbus) was rediscovered and refashioned to fit America's new concept of itself. The country was flush with money; many Americans were enjoying the fruits of the Industrial Revolution. It is no coincidence that by the late 1800’s the emerging Middle Class could afford factory made chairs and dishes and so hold a proper Thanksgiving Feast. Look at all these consumer goods –look at this civilization we’ve carved from the wilderness! Praise the Lord and pass the Sears-Roebuck catalog.

By the time old Herbie Hoover was in office in the 1930's the myth of the Pilgrims had taken hold.

In the early 1900's America was being overrun with immigrants. 1,280,000 entered the country in 1907. Worst yet, they were Catholics and Jews! The myth of different ethnic groups sitting down peaceably at the same table, a Protestant table no less, was mighty potent. And so the story was taught to American schoolchildren. The story became one of the most important founding myths of our nation. As schoolchildren we were all taught to take part in the myth by cutting up paper plates to make turkeys.

Ku Kluxgiving

In 1915, eight years after that peak year of immigration, the KKK came out of the linen closet.  There are two things about their re-emergence that are quite interesting.  One:  their first act was a lynching.  No big shock. But it was of a Jewish man, not a black man. And number two, they were officially and intentionally rededicated on Thanksgiving Day.

The second coming of the Klan was an anti-immigrant movement. It was anti-Catholic, anti-Jew, Pro-protestant.  The Thanksgiving story of the Puritan origins of America was proof positive to the boys in da ‘hoods that they were on a mission from God and so chose that as their born again birthdate.

1915 happened to be the year that D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation was released.
In it the Reconstruction Era Ku Klux Klan is pictured as the protector of southern civilization and female chastity protecting civil society from savage black animals.  The film shows the use of burning crosses.

That was historically inaccurate. In reality many of the original founders of the KKK were Scots-Irish, descendants of Cromwell’s soldiers.  There weren’t uneducated rednecks.  Their organizational name is Greek, the language of the learned. In Greek, kuklos means circle. Take "Ku Klux" and add a little Scottish word to fill out the alliteration and you have Ku Klux Klan.  Their symbol was a circle with a St. Andrews Cross, an X  the flag of Scotland.  In Scotland when they wanted to gather the klans they would light these X shaped crosses on hilltops. (By the by, the Confederate flag is a St. Andrews cross.)

But the second coming of the Klan took that Hollywood mistake and used it as a branding symbol. The Fiery Cross, symbol of their Christianity, read “Protestantism”.

You had to be a white protestant male to belong to the KKK.  And this was no small, inconsequential movement.  There were 14 million KKK members out of a population of 114 million Americans. There were also Junior KKK members and a women's organinzation-- the WKK, who aren’t counted in that number

The Reconstruction Era Klan was called the Invisible Empire.  But you’ll notice no one is hiding his face in the 1926 photo above.  These folks considered themselves patriots, America firsters. God gave this land to White Anglo Saxon Males and they weren’t going to let some greaseballs, micks and hymies take it over.

And this wasn’t just some southern hick thing.  The KKK was huge in the America's northern cities and states
(Indiana was ground zero). It was also big  in the outlying areas of major cities that were full of immigrants. At this time 1 in 6 people on Long Island were Ku Klux Klan members.

The 2nd coming of the Klan died out just before World War Two, only to re-emerge in the 1950’s as an anti-civil rights organization.

But their connection to Thanksgiving is rather unsettling.It is the symbolism of Thanksgiving that were were trying to connect with.  In my opinion their biggest connection to Thanksgiving is that they were a bunch of turkeys.

So five years after the KKK is refounded on Thanksgiving Day, the Plymouth Rock is dusted off and immigrant children are spoon fed turkey, cranberries and a cute little story: that our forefathers were led by God to this virgin land and through hard work and fair play we turned the wilderness into one of the world's great civilizations. Pass the gravy.

Enough twisted history. The truth about the holiday is almost as depressing as the real story of Christmas which we'll learn next month.

So there you have it. 

Here we are approaching everyone's favorite holiday, one that centers on food, family and football.

You don't have to buy any presents, nor Valentine chocolates or flowers; all you have to do is buy into the myth of our Pilgrim forefathers.

But then, now you know better, you know the truth.

Gotta go, there are a bunch of cute little Pilgrims outside burning a woman alive at the stake.

Happy Bird Day Everyone.


Since you've read this far I'm impressed.  If you have friends who don't  like to read but you'd like them to know the true story of Giving then send them to their American Experience division just aired a wonderful, pretty much no pulled punches explantion of the Thanksgiving Nuttiness.
Watch it online at

New York Thanksgiving connections: (Well, this blog is called curious new york)

Within 30 years of the Puritans coming ashore in Plymouth they had spread south and were on the outskirts of the Dutch Colony of New Netherlands. They founded a city outside of New Amsterdam. They named it for the New Ark of the Covenant. You know that town as Newark. They also settled Suffolk County on Long Island and named one of their first towns after Oliver Cromwell’s birthplace: Huntingdon, England. Today, that town is known as Huntington, Long Island.

Of course NY’s biggest Thanksgiving Connection is The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It began in 1924 when all those immigrants who had just flooded the island of Manhattan eagerly embraced the Pilgrim Myth. Macy’s immigrant employees marched down Broadway dressed like Indians. Herding a bunch of animals borrowed from the Central Park zoo. Eventually the animals would be replaced by Animal balloons. The entire interesting history of the parade can be found

The film A Miracle on 34th Street has wedded Macy’s to not only Thanksgiving but also the American Christmas celebration. The parade scenes were shot at an actual 1946 Macy’s parade, which looks downright dorky.

You’ll remember that the film featured the rivalry between the two dept store giants: Macy’s & Gimbels. As in the phrase “Does Macy’s tell Gimbels?” The phrase is still alive but Gimbels isn’t, except for an old painted wall sign. Stand on the corner of 7th Ave at 31st street (near Penn Station) Look east and on your left up top you’ll see “Gimbels” calling out to you from Christmas past.

One other weird Macy’s thing. The Macy’s were an old whaling family. One of the first of the whalers had a star tattoo, which became the family emblem, and eventually Macy’s logo. When the whaling biz died out they turned their ships into cargo ships and brought goods to NY and sold them by the wharves of South Street. They did so well they opened a store. Then, many stores. And once a year you’ll notice that Macy’s still has “a whale of a sale” to honor their Whaling heritage. You are now one of six people in the world who knows this.

So what became of those cute little Puritans?
The United Church of Christ traces itself back to the Mayflower. Those Puritanical dudes dressed in black have become one of the most progressive, liberal congregations in America. A few years ago CBS refused to sell them air time on the Superbowl because the commercial showed, blacks, Latinos and gays in their congregation with the line Jesus didn’t discriminate, neither do we.
Apparently that was way too radical of an idea.

Liberal Puritans---- That’s something to be thankful for.

One other New York Thanksgiving weird thing.

When I was a kid in Brooklyn we actually went around to houses on Thanksgiving and Trick or Treated, saying "Anything for Thanksgiving"  People might give you some change or some cake.  It wasn't as lucrative
as Halloween so we stopped doing it.  But here's a link to a great site that explains the odd custom: