I loved reading The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History. It is an attempt to tell the real story of Thanksgiving in a way that draws on the methods of academic history, rather than the methods of The History Channel.
After Christmas, we will see non-stop airings of documentaries about the historical Christmas and the historical Jesus. I actually enjoy this shows, but they are the donuts of historical study. Lots of mental carbohydrates, very little else…unless that initial burst of carbs leads to additional study and reflection.
Robert Tracy McKenzie is a history professor at Wheaton College. He previously held an endowed chair in history at the University of Washington. While McKenzie utilizes serious historical methodology in this book, the book is primarily a devotional Christian book.
By understanding the real story of the first Thanksgiving, McKenzie contends, we will see this as a story of faith and religion, rather than as part of the nationalistic narrative that it is often portrayed as.
I have not really thought about the pilgrims or the first Thanksgiving beyond what I was taught in early elementary school and I mostly just remember the version found in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special (and the Christmas Charlie Brown is the only good Charlie Brown holiday special).
Here is Prof. McKenzie talking about how our Thanksgiving dinner is…well…less than historical. Take a listen:
I am not a big fan of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner as we now know it. However, I am not likely to calling for a return to the historical first Thanksgiving meal.
I know some of you are strong believers in the separation of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this book would be a great Christmas gift for anyone on your list who has an interest in serious, but accessible, history. Not only is this the real story of the First Thanksgiving, but it is also both serious history (as opposed to historical rubbish written by TV celebrities) and a seriously enjoyable read.