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  • Writer's pictureTimothée Beaulieu

American Thanksgiving Is A Made For TV Fairy Tale

Ah Thanksgiving in the ol’ États-Unis, a day Franco-Americans put aside our historic rivalry with our bitter jealous rivals the “English Colonials.”

For those of you not familiar with American Thanksgiving here’s the quick background all American kids are taught. Brace yourself.

In 1620, the Pilgrims left religiously oppressive England for religious freedom in the new world. Their arrival at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, MA, was the beginning of the United States (Jamestown and Roanoke are ignored…meh)

The first year for the freedom-loving Pilgrims was very hard. At some point, the Pilgrims made friends with the local Native Americans (Wampanoag Tribe). The native people, particularly Squanto, taught the Pilgrims how to farm and such in the Massachusetts soil. We would usually hear something about burying a dead fish with corn.

After the first growing season, the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated with a big feast to give thanks for their friendship and a great harvest. They all lived happily ever after. The End.

Yea, it's pretty much an American folk tale at this point. I’m sure some of it is true but seems way too Hollywood to me. The real story, particularly for the Native Americans…much different.

My curiosity lies with how the early Franco-Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. By the time the majority of the French-Canadian immigrants (FCs) arrived in the United States Sarah Josepha Hale’s campaign to have a set national day for Thanksgiving was successful. We celebrate annually on the 4th Thursday in November.

What would it have been like in say 1915 for a New England mill family celebrating Thanksgiving? The Pilgrim/Puritan descendants that hired them from Quebec to come work paid them a slave wage. Many of them worked 16 hour days in the mill, so I’m guessing this wasn’t some grand feast.

My logical guess was there were some very basic foods centering around pork. Pork and salt seem to be a staple of the FC diet. Maybe a small turkey? Kind of like what Bob Cratchit has in “A Christmas Carol.”

The stage is now set. Pork pies, split pea soup, and a small turkey for two parents and ten kids. How far we have come!

For this Thanksgiving, I’m going to give thanks for the sacrifices made by these amazing people. Their hard work and sacrifice led to me being able to make fun of Pilgrims in my warm house on a chilly November day on a computer made in China. Merci!

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