Good food and football

The Thanksgiving story is one of the more pleasant tales in American history when it comes to relations between European settlers and the American Indians.

It is one of the few situations that does not deal with war or broken treaties, but rather with cooperation … and a good meal.

The year 1621 had been a challenging one for the colonists in Plymouth Colony.

That winter, more than half the people had died of influenza and in the summer, squabbles over sharing crops had destroyed whatever communal harmony had survived. In the fall, Gov. William Bradford privatized and subdivided the cornfields. Then, he negotiated a peace treaty with the local Indians who had taught them to grow the lifesaving grain. And, he invited Wampanoag Chief Massasoit to dinner.

The Algonquin tribes, of which the Wampanoag was one, celebrated five planting festivals a year, so Chief Massasoit knew just what to expect-a joyous three full days of dining, singing, dancing and playing dozens of games.

The Indians brought most of the food to that first feast: five deer, many turkeys and wild swans, smoked salmon and fresh cod, beans of all sorts, corn pudding, maple sugar candy and an assortment of berries.

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For the next century and a half, there would often be celebrations of the harvest. And then in 1789, President George Washington declared the last Thursday in November a holiday by introducing the resolution to Congress. But even then, it was mainly celebrated in New England.

Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln yielded to the pressure of Boston editor Sara Hale who had been campaigning for an official holiday for years.

Until that time, Lincoln’s home state of Illinois was one of the areas that still did not celebrate Thanksgiving.

Since then, Thanksgiving has encountered only one more temporary adjustment. In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to move Thanksgiving a week back because merchants, including the National Retail Dry Goods Association, told him there would be more time for holiday shopping.

After much confusion, however, and resistance from people, especially calendar makers, the holiday resumed its place on the fourth Thursday in November.

Besides the food, another Thanksgiving tradition is football.

For many years, college and high school football teams would play on Thanksgiving Day.

Although there is one college football game scheduled for Thursday, the amateur football tradition has mostly disappeared. When one thinks of football on Thanksgiving, the NFL comes to mind.

The first Thanksgiving Day professional football games were played in 1920, with 12 teams competing that day. The Detroit Lions began playing on the holiday in 1934, and have played every year since, except during World War II.

The Dallas Cowboys began their Thanksgiving Day tradition in 1966. Since then and until this season, those two teams were the only ones that consistently played on Thanksgiving Day.

But this year, the NFL Network has added a third game that will become a new tradition, but without any consistent team.

Jody Stump, Lindsey Kuhn and Jonathan Friedman contributed to this story.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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