Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The History of the American Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday at our house like it is at most people's houses. This year is our first year only having three people yet for some reason my menu is the same. We tend to still have a New England type Thanksgiving dinner instead of the Southern collards and macaroni and cheese. Our dinner tomorrow will consist of: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, turnips, squash, homemade cranberry sauce, rolls, deviled eggs, pickled, a pumpkin pie and an apple pie and maybe some banana bread. 

To read the whole history click this link:

Thanksgiving at Plymouth

Thanksgiving at Plymouth

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.

Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English. Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.


  1. I had to explain this story to my husband last week...we're having 'Manx-giving' this weekend here on the Isle of Man ;) I did start to read the book 'Mayflower' earlier this year, have you heard of it? From that book it seemed like those Pilgrims were a really crazy bunch. I think they'd be labelled a cult these days!

  2. If one ever has the opportunity to be in Massachusetts, a trip to the Plimouth Plantation is worth it. It's a good reminder of just how challenging life was for them. Rhode Island, my home state, has its own interesting history, considering it was formed by the people who wanted religious freedom from the people who sought religious freedom! Happy Thanksgiving, my friend, and enjoy your feast!

  3. Becky; I wish you and your family all the best for Thanksgiving. Hopefully your boys will be celebrating this occasion somewhere too.
    My "homeland" is in Cornwall, in the extreme South-West of the UK, very close to the original Plymouth, from which the Pilgrim Fathers set out.

  4. Thank you for this post, As Im from Australia I never really knew that story of thanksgiving. Its a beautiful story of what humans can acheive when they put aside hate and work together. we can all learn alot from it.
    happy thanksgiving to you.

  5. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Enjoy it.

  6. My youngest son has already called from Texas in a grocery store somewhere asking where he can get pie crust, lol. No, I didn't tell him flour, water, shortening and salt (a little lard), lol, I directed him to the freezer section to make it easier on his wife who is cooking his pumpkin pie for the first time.
    My older son is traveling to his girlfriends (and maybe his dads) in NC.
    I am sure it will be happy Thanksgivings all around.
    My pumpkin pie is done and the apple pie is in. They won't look like store bought but they will taste a whole lot better.