The Story of Thanksgiving

The Classic Account

Courtesy of the Pilgrim Hall Museum

The original story of Thanksgiving is based around the 1621 feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts. William Bradford's account from his work Of Plimoth Plantation is the classic:
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.
The only other firsthand account of the occurrences at the 1621 feast in Plymouth is by Edward Winslow, written in Mourt's Relation:
Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
Click here to read more about the Plymouth Thanksgiving Story.

Click here to read the Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Straight from the Pilgrims' Mouths - Ever wonder what a pilgrim would say if you asked him or her about the harvest feast of 1621? The Plimoth Plantation is a "living history" museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Visitors can interact with reenactors dressed in the pilgrim's fashion of the time.

Click here to listen to audio from reenacted "pilgrim" interviews.

The Real Story?
When most of us think of Thanksgiving, we think of happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast. That is not entirely true. For more information, follow the links below: 

The REAL Story of Thanksgiving by Susan Bates

Deconstructing the Myths by Judy Dow & Beverly Salpin

The True, Grim Story of the First Thanksgiving, audio by NPR's Bob Edwards

Mayflower Myths, from History.com


What was eaten at the first Thanksgiving?
There has been a lot of speculation about what recipes we enjoy today may or may have not actually been at the first Thanksgiving. Grandma's famous apple pie probably didn't make the menu, but other items such as corn, ham, and fish were shared by pilgrims and Indians.

To learn more about the first Thanksgiving's feast and foods, click here.

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