The latest weather outlook for the upcoming Thanksgiving is lovely, unless you live in the Northwest.
Almost all the weather services are reporting mellow weather for the East, South, Midwest and Southwest over Wednesday and Thursday. The year’s busiest travel day should be mild and dry, throughout most of the nation. Thanksgiving Day should be sunny. Only the Northwest is expected to be stormy. In short, it looks like the weather will be as pleasant as it was on the first Thanksgiving, long ago in 1621.
May you have a happy Thanksgiving and good weather.
The irony is that we know more about the weather of that first occasion than we do the actual date. We know it was in October, not November. As new arrivals, the Pilgrims frequently described the harsh local climate, so the fact that they only wrote about the harvest festival and not the weather indicates it was probably relatively normal. For New England in mid-autumn, that meant mostly sunny weather in the mid-to-low 60˚s.
Most history books record how difficult the previous year had been for the Pilgrims. After a much delayed, stormy sea voyage the colonists landed on December 21, the first day of winter. The harsh winter (45 of the 102 setters died) was followed by a rough spring, but the autumn brought a bountiful harvest. The arrival of Tisquantum (Squanto) had brought peaceable relations with Ousamequin, the Massasoit Sachem (great chief) and his tribal confederation, including life-saving farming information, a trade treaty, and a military alliance.
Ignore the Plains Indian clothing and other inaccuracies−we still commemorate a moment of harmony and abundance, when two peoples celebrated in peace. Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)
What most books don’t record is how difficult times had been for the Wampanoag people. From 1616 to 1619, the confederation had endured an epidemic (smallpox or maybe leptospirosis, 7-day fever) that had wiped out an estimated 40% of the tribe. The remaining survivors found themselves militarily weakened and facing uneasy relations with their stronger neighbors. When the Pilgrims settled the decimated lands of the confederation’s Patuxet tribe and befriended the last Patuxet survivor Squanto, it seemed as if a new ally had arrived to strengthen the confederation. For the Wampanoag, 1621 was a time of healing, good hunting, good harvests and renewed strength.
History would disrupt the amity but for a moment, there was peace and plenty. For three days, the remaining 53 Pilgrims and over 90 Wampanoag feasted, had games and competitions, prayed and ate some more. It was a time of sunny weather and celebration.
May this holiday weekend give you, our readers, sunshine, peace and a reason to celebrate.
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.