Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Thanksgiving is a day usually filled with remembrances of smells of turkey and pumpkin pie, uncles and aunts, cousins, football and fall weather. But a review of the underlying history of Thanksgiving reveals a story that is far from the Norman Rockwell image of Dad carving a turkey at the dining room table in some imaginary New England home.
The real Thanksgiving celebration most likely only occurred once…and lasted three days. Neither turkey, nor potatoes, nor pumpkin pie were on the menu, but waterfowl and venison were – oh, and unsweetened cranberries (as no sugar was yet available in New England). This Thanksgiving was a very appropriate one. The first English pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 with hardly any survival skills suited to their new land. Most died during that first winter from starvation and exposure to the elements. 1622 proved no different; in fact, it wasn’t until 1623 that the harvests became more reliable and bountiful. If it were not for a sole Patuxet Native named Squanto, colonization would likely have been set back by decades.
To paint a more balanced picture than Norman Rockwell’s, it is rarely mentioned that in 1614, English explorers initially returned to England in ships loaded with as many as 500 Patuxet Indian slaves bound for market. This was the hapless tribe that happened to be at ground zero of these European explorers’ arrival. Later, when New England’s first settlers arrived, only one Patuxet remained alive, English-speaking Squanto, who had survived slavery in England and returned later to New England thanks to the graces of a befriended Englishman. During the first two horrible years of near starvation, the Pilgrims were taught by Squanto and the neighboring Wampanoaga people how to grow corn and to survive in this new land. Squanto also negotiated a peace treaty for the Pilgrims with the nearby and very large Wampanoaga tribe. At the end of the hardships of the first year, there indeed was a 3-day Thanksgiving feast honoring Squanto and their new neighbors, the Wampanoagas, but in reality the harvest was meager and there was little to eat that winter following this thanksgiving.
Despite the continual hardship, the word spread throughout England of this newly found “paradise” in America, so countless new settlers arrived. And as always in such situations, when a more technologically superior people enter a less advanced peoples’ land, tensions increased between races until a state of war for survival arose. And such was the case with the New England Natives and the waves of land and freedom hungry colonists. Unfortunately, soon both governors and clergy began calling for days of thanksgiving following successful victories against the natives.
In 1789, President George Washington called for “ a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favours of God Almighty”. In 1863, during the Civil War, to foster a sense of national unity, Abraham Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. FDR in 1939 set the date as the 4th Thursday of November to add additional economic energy prior to Xmas, and hence the term Black Friday was probably coined, commemorating the day when retailers went from being in the red to being in the black. Our consumer driven culture solidified over the 20th century the iconic foods, settings, and modern traditions of our national holiday.
Now with the history under our soon-to-be straining belts, how better to celebrate Thanksgiving than coming to the land of the ancient Pueblos who had already been in existence for hundreds of years prior to the English explorers’ arrival on this continent?
The Inn on the Alameda’s restaurant, the Agoyo Lounge, traditionally prepares a “reservations-recommended” Thanksgiving dinner for guests and locals alike. We cook up a unique and special menu, which you can view on our website. Please join us around the fires to enjoy a day of thanksgiving for living in one of the greatest countries in the world and certainly enjoying it in one of the greatest and most unique cities in the world.
One of New Mexico’s signature sights is hundreds of hot air balloons “flying” over Albuquerque – their many shapes, patterns and colors contrasting against the vast blue canvas of the sky and the rich earthen colors of the ground below. New Mexico is home to the largest balloon festival in the world: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The Fiesta is an occasion to welcome hundreds of balloonists from all over the world, providing an opportunity for both visitors and locals alike to experience the surreal beauty of the balloons in the New Mexico sky.
If it were not for the pioneering spirit of Albuquerque balloon legends Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman, it is doubtful that the Balloon Fiesta would have become such an internationally recognized and celebrated event. These men were the first to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in hot air balloons – the famous Double Eagle II and V in 1978 and 1981.
Dating from the promotional efforts of ballooning pioneers like Sid Cutter in the 1970s, the Fiesta soon became a pivotal location for the burgeoning modern balloonist culture. Traditions such as the lighted Dawn Patrol (glowing balloons going up while still dark to scout the wind conditions for the other fliers), the mass ascension and the flight of playfully shaped balloons became an integral part of the culture.
There is so much to do, but be sure to see the Mass Ascension, usually scheduled for 7 a.m. when the winds are calm. Once the lead balloon with an American flag launches, balloon traffic referees in zebra striped shirts coordinate the launching of the hundreds of colorful balloons, creating one of the world’s most amazing aviation events. Another astonishing event is the Balloon Glow, when at night all the balloonists fire their burners simultaneously, creating a spectacular explosion (well, hopefully not) of shapes and hue. Following the Balloon Glow, a massive fireworks display continues the excitement and entertainment.
The entertainment and excitement of the Fiesta are also caused by the balloonist competition – an important part of the Fiesta culture. The earliest iterations featured “Coyote and Roadrunner” chases where a balloon decked out with an image of the familiar character attempted to evade balloons painted as its antagonist. This has become a far more regulated set of events and aerial competitions and races can make for exciting viewing.
One of the reasons for the Fiesta’s success comes from the meteorological phenomenon known as the “Albuquerque Box,” a set of wind patterns that occur when the weather is “just right.”
“Albuquerque’s location is crucial to even the possibility of the Box forming. The city sits in the Rio Grande Valley between the Sandia Mountains and the West Mesa. The Albuquerque Box is ‘essentially a valley wind pattern that develops under certain stable conditions.’ Temperature, wind and moisture all factor into creating this unique weather situation. Temperature is important because cooler air is more dense than warm air and the air that is more dense sinks below the less dense air…When the Albuquerque Box is working, tourists can then stay in one spot and watch the balloon launch, drift away, then drift back and land all from the same location.” -Allison Smith from Meteorologist’s Jeff Haby’s website.
The Inn on the Alameda offers an excellent experience for guests interested in the Balloon Fiesta. Feel free to call on our knowledgeable staff to help ensure first-rate viewing and even the possibility of ascending to truly experience the Fiesta like no other. No one should miss the sight of the balloons, which is one of the unique New Mexico elements that truly make this the Land of Enchantment. And be sure to stop at the Agoyo Lounge for a drink and dinner and a special toast to one of the world’s most spectacular events.
As with most historical ceremonies held by Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the US, the tradition of the burning of this 50-foot tall effigy is linked to Spanish traditions, such as Fiestas, a celebration originally conceived in 1712 commemorating the peaceful re-conquest of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas in 1692. Fiestas is both a civic and religious experience, lasting several days over a weekend in late summer, that includes the Children’s Pet Parade, which is not to be missed, as families decorate every imaginable pet from snakes to burros for a parade around the Plaza. Also a Hysterical/Historical Parade, poking fun at the town’s hysteria over its history. There is also an historically accurate and lavishly costumed re-enactment of the Entrada when Don Diego de Vargas returned to Santa Fe carrying the statue of La Madonna, which the fleeing Spanish had taken with them in 1680 at the outbreak of the Pueblo Revolt. As with most Santa Fe celebrations, there are food booths, an arts and crafts fair, dancing and a general sense of “fiesta” throughout the town with everyone yelling “Que Viva!” This is an abbreviated two-word phrase, meaning: “Long live Fiesta!”
image from reportingtexas.com
In the midst of all of the fiesta splendor, there is one less cheerful event – a celebration of a darker sort: The Burning of Zozobra: Old Man Gloom.
In 1924, two of Santa Fe’s original Cinco Pintores (5 painters), conceived the idea of creating the opportunity for people to annually dispose of their worries and woes. Santa Feans, Gustauve Baumann and Will Shuster created the concept and subsequent tradition of the public burning of a 50-foot paper mache effigy of an old man by the name of Zozobra. Zozobra is Spanish for anxiety and people are encouraged to write down their sorrows, bad memories, general woes and even legal papers that they wish to see go up in smoke. A “sorrows” box is placed at the base of Zozobra into which, during the day of burning, people can drop their notes and documents as fodder for the grandest and most attended bonfire of the year.
This giant old man gloom is built with hidden speakers, arms that mechanically wave, eyes that creepily dart from side to side, and even jaws that move. As the final hours before the burning of Old Man Gloom wind down, up to 50,000 people – young and old – fill Fort Marcy Park in excited anticipation of the lighting and burning of Zozobra. First everyone waits for dusk…then dancers appear taunting and gyrating at the old man’s base as thick, black smoke begins to slowly rise. Then the air is permeated with groans and moans, coming from the gut of Zozobra himself…People are yelling “Burn Him!” and hooting and hollering in anticipation of the final act of destruction of this Old Man Gloom. The excitement is electric and everyone is swept up into the contagious thrill of this amazing tradition. Many people’s memories go back to their earliest childhood years and the roar of pleasure when the flames finally burst up through the middle of the effigy is deafening!
This event is always worth the effort. Go early; bring folding chairs and beverages and snacks (no alcohol can be legally allowed inside the park for everyone’s safety). Spread out your blankets and bring the family, as this is traditionally a very family friendly evening. Zozobra is just one of the many events in our hometown that makes us the City Different and this is a weekend to attend at least several times in your life.
We hope you stop by the Inn on the Alameda and join us for a drink and toast to the burning of Zozobra and the disbursement of all our sorrows into the smoke filled heavens.