Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year. Other people might prefer Christmas, Halloween, or Independence Day, but I love the traditions, family, and attitude of gratitude that is celebrated every fourth Thursday in November.
My family has always celebrated together and when I was little, my older sister and I would rope our younger cousins into doing small Thanksgiving plays with us for the 20-30 people there.
Of course, we were little and our knowledge of the first Thanksgiving is pretty much what you would expect: pilgrims befriending Indians and a feast celebrating a bountiful harvest.
But even as adults, how much do we REALLY know about the history of Thanksgiving? I decided to dig up some more information about the holiday. Before you feast tomorrow, share some of these facts with your kids so they can appreciate more about the holiday. Or keep them to yourself so they don’t call you a nerd. Your call.
1) Very little is actually known about the first thanksgiving. The celebration between the Pilgrims and Wampanoeg Indians was not even the first thanks-giving feast of its kind in America. Feasts were celebrated in Florida and Virginia decades or more before Plymouth Pilgrims did.
2) Rather than potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, the Plymouth pilgrims and Wampanoeg Indians feasted on five deer provided by the Native Americans, various wildfowl (possibly including wild turkey), shellfish, and corn.
3) There were nearly twice as many Native Americans (approximately 90) at the first Thanksgiving than there were pilgrims. Despite this, the relationship between the Wampanoeg tribe and Pilgrims was often turbulent and broke out in war decades later.
4) Two primary players in the success of Thanksgiving were the Wampanoeg leader Massosoit, and Pilgrim Edward Winslow, both of whom without the celebration would not have been possible.
5) Though first celebrated in 1621, Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until 1863, under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, as a way to bring the country together during the Civil War.
The true history of Thanksgiving is unclear and complicated. These facts are a mere summary of what we know. To learn more, here are some resources:
P.S. Thanks to my dad for unknowingly inspiring this post. Happy birthday!