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.
Many flags have flown over Santa Fe from long before the first celebration of the 4th of July. New Mexico would not become any legal part of the United States until 1848 following the Mexican-American War. So the first 4th of July celebration was most likely observed when New Mexico entered the Union as a Territory (no elected representation in Washington), which she remained until gaining Statehood in 1912. Prior to this, there was a rich tradition of religious and civic festivals such as the Santa Fe Fiesta and the various Catholic saint days that made up an important part of colonial life.
In the United States, the original 13 colonies created most of the national celebrations, while religious observances handled the others. While the Congress passed a Resolution of Independence from England on July 2, 1776, it was not until 2 days later that the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence – on July 4th. In the following year in Rhode Island, the 4th was saluted with the firing of 13 guns representing the 13 original colonies.
This most certainly was the beginning of a tradition of firework displays in all communities and backyards throughout the nation.
Pancakes on the Plaza – image from santafe.com
To talk about the 4th of July today on the Plaza is easy because so many community events are all occurring at the same time, making a visit more than ordinary. What could be as American as Enchiladas and standing next to the exact spot on the Plaza where the Santa Fe Trail ended, heralding the opening of the vast Western half of the country? The most exciting event going on is standing in long lines at the United Way pancake breakfast, staffed by countless volunteers serving sausages and pancakes, with all proceeds going to the United Way of Santa Fe.
Speaking from my own experience, the 4th of July is truly the day for locals to bump into people they might not have seen in 35 years. This democratic coming together of the citizens to celebrate their day of political and religious freedom underscores the “Spirit of 1776.” After eating and feeling good from a full belly of pancakes, and with the knowledge your breakfast has contributed to the United Way, stop to see the vintage car exhibition on streets next to the Plaza. Talk to the proud restorers and owners about their vehicles’ histories and ask any question imaginable about the make and model of their particular vintage automobile. Not into old cars? There is an Arts and Crafts show as well as a silent auction. Did I forget the dancing, singing, and music from the bandstand? And there’s other food choices as well.
But the best memories of the 4th are the fireworks…sparklers and roman candles, firecrackers, rocketing displays of color throughout the nation’s skies! However, there can be no fireworks on the Plaza these days due to extreme drought conditions in the West. But if you cannot survive the withdrawal, there is still a City sponsored night display at the high school’s football field. But remember, while the firing of the 13 cannons mark this day, any conscientious citizen owes it to himself and nation to contemplate the meaning of this day of independence and what it represents. We embraced the spirit of the Enlightenment and freed ourselves from the chains of monarchy and foreign rule, embarking upon the most unique voyage of religious, political and civic freedoms the world has seen.
So, to set the tone for this contemplation, have a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Agoyo Lounge at the Inn of the Alameda and toast our Founding Fathers and the commitment and bravery they exemplified.
Happy 4th of July!
image from http://www.iceflowstudios.com/