Thursday, October 13, 2011

Giving Thanks for Bourbon

Today's Banner Lecture "The First Thanksgiving" at the Virginia Historical Society started with a little topical humor.

"Welcome to the first installment of Occupy Plymouth," President Paul Levingood said to delayed laughter.

Yes, the lecture was about Massachustetts' superior PR skills marketing their Pilgrims as having had the first Thanksgiving.

Lies, all lies, as any good Virginian knows.

After the disastrous first expedition here (60 out of 497 settlers left after a year), the second group of die-hard colonists specifically excluded two groups: dandies and cavaliers.

Neither had useful skills for colony creation. I was just surprised that didn't occur to anybody the first time around.

Speaker Graham Woodlief, a descendant of Captain Woodlief who was part of the Bermuda Hundred settlement group we're talking about, gave a compelling talk about the differences in Virginia's Thanksgiving and that of the other place's.

Virginia's Thanksgiving celebration was a religious event mandated by England and not a social or eating one.

Maybe that's why the Pilgrims made it into the history books; their idea of T-day is way more enjoyable than the Virginia version.

Even so, when President Kennedy referred to the Pilgrims in his 1962 Thanksgiving Proclamation, you better believe he heard from the Old Dominion.

Come 1963, he made sure to mention both events so as not to incur the wrath of Virginia again.

And now ever since 1958, a celebration of the First Thanksgiving has taken place at Berkley Plantation, as it will again this year.

But as Woodlief also informed us, the first bourbon was distilled at Berkeley (take that Kentucky) and perhaps that's what all that thanks-giving was really about.

As a colonist wrote in a letter about the new spirit that made them forsake English beer, "Those who drink it forget about the hardships of life in this colony."

And should you decide to attend the First Thanksgiving at Berkeley this year, you may want to try the "Thanksgiving Dinner in a Glass," so popular last year that it sold out we were told.

After that lecture, it sounds to me like it ought to be bourbon in that Thanksgiving glass.

I mean, only if you want to be historically accurate.

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