The Story of the First Thanksgiving


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Photo courtesy of Cornerstone Communities

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many, and a time for friends and family to come together. With the excitement of seeing family, the piles of delicious food, and Christmas right around the corner, how could people not love it? But did you know the first Thanksgiving possibly didn’t even have the famous turkey?

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in the month of November, and this year it falls on the 28th. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally everywhere since 1789. Traditionally, people get together with their friends and family to bond over tons of food and to be thankful for everything and everyone in their lives. Though it may be fun now, Thanksgiving used to be a very different holiday filled with tradition.

In September of 1620, a small ship known as the Mayflower carried over 102 passengers, searching for new land to build a new home opon. After a 66 day ride of harsh and uncomfortable storms, the Pilgrims found Massachusetts Bay where they soon started to build a home, but their hopes didn’t last long. A rough winter kept the Pilgrims boarded up inside the ship, cold and sick for months, and almost half the original travelers didn’t live to see the first spring. Soon, an Abenaki Native American went to greet the Pilgrims and seeing how starved and ill they were, came back with another Native American Squanto. To help the people, Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to catch fish in a river, cultivate corn, and avoid poisonous plants, among other things. That year, the Pilgrim’s harvest was very successful, so they invited the Native Americans for a feast in gratefulness for their help. This, to the Pilgrims, would be declared as the first Thanksgiving.

At the feast between and Pilgrims and the Native Americans, they most likely didn’t have turkey, apples or even cranberries. The only thing we know for sure they ate was venison and corn. So why do we eat turkey? It’s because that’s the way Victorians prepared Thanksgiving. Victorians were the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, so we prepare it the way they did. The Pilgrims were not even part of the holiday until the late 19th Century. Before then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.

All and all, from wherever Thanksgiving started to the amazing people who created this tradition, to the Victorians who build the main feast we eat today, what we should be thankful for is that every November we get to celebrate this wonderful holiday with the ones we love the most.