Thanksgiving: Pilgrims and 'Peanuts'

"We've got another holiday to worry about," a young boy once said. "It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us."Those words come from none other than the perennial pessimist, Charlie Brown, from the 1973 classic film carrying his namesake about the November holiday. And for anyone who is a child at heart, the all-too-familiar story gives a history lesson on the most popular Thanksgiving celebration while giving a glimpse into how Americans today observe the holiday.Charlie Brown's comrade, Linus van Pelt, cites the most popular Thanksgiving feast, held in 1621. According to, the Pilgrims had landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts at the start of that same year. The New World had been hard on the settlers in their pursuit of religious freedom and prosperity through the winter weather, disease and death. But that spring ushered in a more positive perspective, along with a Native American by the name of Squanto. Because he taught the Pilgrims how to harvest the land, a celebration was to be held because of its success. In November 1621, Governor William Bradford planned a three-day celebration with the Wampanoag chief Massasoit and several Native Americans allies to show his appreciation.While the children's classic leaves out most of the background of Thanksgivings past, it does show how we in America celebrate the holiday today. At the movie's introduction, Charlie Brown falls for Lucy van Pelt's cruel trick (once again) to play football--a sport that almost dominates the holiday now with college and professional games broadcast throughout the day.Also on this holiday, loved ones gather together to enjoy a meal. Peppermint Patty invites her friends to join Charlie Brown and his crew to enjoy a meal prepared by none other than Snoopy, the main character's lovable beagle.He sets up their table (a ping-pong table) with chairs that don't match the dining area--a typical setting on Thanksgiving, and then makes his version of a Thanksgiving dinner. Buttered toast, popcorn, jelly beans, pretzel sticks and ice cream sundaes crowd the table, much to the chagrin of Peppermint Patty.She wants a traditional meal: the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And for today's Thanksgiving customs, a spread like this naturally makes it to the table for the family to enjoy.But even in the midst of grumbling from Peppermint Patty--as well as Sally, Charlie Brown's sister who wonders why she should give thanks (we've all seen our share of that one person at this holiday)--Linus shows the importance of Thanksgiving throughout the movie by sharing the history and offering grace before the meal. And for most families, some will recollect the story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans while a majority will also recall what they are grateful for on the Thursday of thanks.Some could even say that forgiveness almost comes easier on Thanksgiving, as Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown eventually make amends for the dinner disaster. She realizes that "there's enough problems in the world already without these stupid misunderstandings," but unfortunately takes it a bit too far when they shake hands and tells Charlie Brown, "You're holding my hand, Chuck, you sly dog."At the story's end, the crew of six heads to the house of Charlie Brown's grandmother, bringing family and friends together on Thanksgiving for dinner as the holiday always seems to do. And as they drive off, Snoopy and his feathered friend Woodstock enjoy their own turkey meal, with pumpkin pie for dessert and another Thanksgiving tradition, the breaking of the wishbone.But in the midst of the hoopla--past and present, some people still know what Thanksgiving comes down to, especially a little girl in the movie by the name of Marcie. What she says serves as a reminder for everyone in commemorating the holiday, each and every year."Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck," the Peanuts character explained to her block-headed friend. "Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too." "We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by 'Thanksgiving,' Charlie Brown."