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The Thanksgiving story

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We’ve all been there, your kid comes to you and asks “Mom why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?” “When did it start?” “What’s the Thanksgiving story?”

Unfortunately, most of us can only answer with it’s a day to give thanks that started with a dinner between the Pilgrims and Native Americans and we don’t really remember the answers to all of the more specific questions. Why did they eat together? How did they even become friends?

Well, not to worry we did our research and uncovered the answers to all of those questions and we’re giving them to you so that the next time you’re asked “Mom, what’s the Thanksgiving story?” you’ll be ready to answer in full detail!

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?

We celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November to honour the first American settlers and their first harvest feast with the Native American Wampanoag people who had already lived in the ‘New World’ for more than 12,000 years.

Where was the first Thanksgiving celebrated?

The first Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated in southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, close to what we know as Cape Cod today. The Pilgrims had tried to go to New York, but bad weather put them off course.

Who were the Pilgrims?

The Pilgrims, also known as Puritans, were English Protestants that wanted to break away from the Church of England. They first went to Holland, but fell on tough financial times so took the opportunity when offered to them and headed to America. The trip took 66 days and carried 101 women, men and children to the ‘New World’. They were not the first Europeans to arrive in America.

How did the Pilgrims and Native Americans become friends?

Two Native Americans, Samoset and Squanto (who had learned some English from earlier settlers) approached the Pilgrims and offered to help them find and grow food. In March 1961 they signed an agreement that officially sealed their friendship. However, that fall the Native Americans heard gunshots and thought the Pilgrims were attacking. Before retaliating the Wampanoag people investigated the English settlement to see if they really were attacking and discovered that they were only trying to hunt game for their Harvest dinner. The Native Americans decided to help them hunt and then they all ate together.

Thanksgiving turkey

Did they eat turkey at the first Thanksgiving?

Did they eat turkey at the first Thanksgiving dinner?

The first Thanksgiving different was very different to the Thanksgiving dinner we eat today. The first Thanksgiving dinner consisted in: deer, corn, shellfish, roasted meat and cranberries. The roasted meat may have included turkey, but it’s doubtful. At that Thanksgiving dinner deer was definitely the star plate.

Did they play football too?

They didn’t play football as we know it today, but they played ball games, sang and danced in celebration of the harvest.

And here’s a little extra trivia we were surprised to learn while researching:

  • The Pilgrims didn’t actually call themselves Pilgrims.
  • The Native Americans didn’t wear woven blankets and feather headdresses to the first Thanksgiving dinner.
  • The ‘Pilgrims’ wore bright and colorful clothes, not black outfits and silver buckled shoes.

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