The Biography of an American Holiday
Other primary creator Peter J. Gomes
Published by: University of New Hampshire Press
JAMES W. BAKER was the director of research at Plimoth Plantation for many years and has acted as an authority for numerous Thanksgiving Day exhibits, articles, newscasts, and children's books.
"Baker has incorporated all the available research on Thanksgiving and enriched it with his unparalleled access to original sources as the former director of research at Plimoth Plantation. Most appealing about this book is that it has been produced by an expert on the topic, and one who is also a Plymouth, MA, native. He shows us how Thanksgiving is seen through each generation's reality, having morphed from a holiday for pilgrim hats and turkeys to a cause for Native American protests to a holy day to several ancient holidays combined and a full-scale orgy of food and football. Thanksgiving is not the holiday you think it is and will not be the holiday you know now in 100 years, but it can be whatever holiday you need. There is now a desire to make it an international holiday-Who knows? . . . . This is destined to become the accepted text for research on the history and myth of this most American holiday, and it will be an enjoyable, fascinating read both for students and for anyone looking for a good story."—Booklist
"For good or ill Americans have always considered themselves exceptional. This remarkable self image first appeared on a fall day in 1621 when the Pilgrims gathered 'so [that] we might after a special manner rejoice together' and reflect on the 'special providence' God had granted them. Their Native American guests watched bemused. Like 'Camelot' Baker writes 'there once was a time when with the best intentions, two very different cultures came together.' From that moment on Thanksgiving has become the most persistent, if not controversial, celebration in America. Perfectly historical (mythological?) and encrusted over the centuries in hyperbole and invention, it has nonetheless survived as one of the least pretentious of all our national holidays dedicated to simple fare and family gathering. No one but Jim Baker could unravel the true meaning of this holiday with such expertise and grace. By explaining 'Thanksgiving' Baker goes to heart of revealing American character."—William M. Fowler, Jr., Distinguished Professor of History, Northeastern University