The First Thanksgiving Was an Especially Drunken and Smelly Affair

Illustration for article titled The First Thanksgiving Was an Especially Drunken and Smelly Affair

As we all prepare to endure various forms of emotional bludgeoning and familial gluttony in a few days, it's important to remember that our culture has done its darndest to scrub the Thanksgiving origin story clean, or at least cleaner than the Pilgrims (who eschewed bathing because, long story short, Christianity voided pretty much all of Rome's cultural advancements in public nudity...or something). Anyway, other than the ritual of tracing hands on construction paper and then cutting out little paper turkeys to tack onto communal corkboards, pretty much nothing about the first Thanksgiving was awesome. Except for Squanto.


Buzzfeed's Molly Langmuir compiled some of the more interesting Thanksgiving facts, including that one about how four women from the Mayflower had to make Thanksgiving dinner for about 140 Pilgrims and Native Americans:

All the food the 140 odd Pilgrims and Native Americans feasted on to celebrate the first successful harvest was prepared by four presumably extremely stressed out women. All the other women on the Mayflower had died by the time fall rolled around. (The pilgrims landed on Nov 21st 1620. The first Thanksgiving was fall of the following year. That first year was ROUGH.)


Everybody at the original Thanksgiving also got inappropriately wasted, even the Pilgrim kids, which of course gave rise to the tradition of fun uncles the world over spiking their nieces' and nephews' milk with Bailey's

Most importantly, there was alcohol. Back then, the English considered beer safer to drink than water (often rightly) and as long as it was available, they served it at all meals to everyone, except maybe babies. Just to clarify: Pilgrim children drank beer for breakfast. The early colonists tried making alcohol from carrots, tomatoes, beets, celery, squash, and, most gross of all, onions, but it's unclear if any of these surely disgusting brews were served for the first Thanksgiving.

Finally (and this is really the most visceral fact, the fact that really brings history vividly to life), the first Thanksgiving was stinky, and not because Cousin Grady's GWAR t-shirt smelled like weed and Uncle Owen had doused himself in Aqua Velva to impress his inappropriately drunk date. None of the Pilgrims, it seems, engaged in that onerous bit of aquatic calisthenics we modern people call "bathing":

Saints or strangers, all the colonists smelled bad. None bathed regularly, as they thought it spread disease. They did wash their hands and faces before meals, but this did not keep the Native Americans from complaining that they stank. Apparently Squanto tried "without success" to teach them to bathe.


You should check out the whole list if only because history is fun and, unless you take control of the "history of Thanksgiving" conversation next Thursday, Aunt Trudy is going to tell everyone that she saw on the History Channel that Thanksgiving actually commemorates the day extraterrestrials came to our planet bearing corn, which is why all cornfields now contain strange crop circles and magic baseball fields, duh.

15 Things You Didn't Know About The First Thanksgiving [Buzzfeed]

Image via Webspark/Shutterstock.


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Granted, I think you could add "They were all drunk and smelled really bad" to any history lesson about Western civilization.