• The First Thanksgiving

    When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in November of 1620, they faced several months of work and hunger. During that winter, they lived on the Mayflower, which was anchored a mile or two out in  Plymouth Harbor. The men rowed inland in small boats every day to build houses, returning in the evening to sleep. Many of the Pilgrims became sick during this cold, long winter. In fact, half the group died.

    Squanto, a Wampanoag Indian, befriended the Pilgrims. He, along with other Wampanoag, taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn and other foods. Without the Wampanoags’ help, the Pilgrims probably wouldn’t have survived. By the following autumn, the Pilgrims had built seven houses, three storehouses for food, and a meeting house. They were very grateful for their successes. They held a feast with the Wampanoags to thank them and to thank God.

    Fun facts of Pilgrims- Image of The First Thanksgiving
    Fun facts of Pilgrims- Image of The First Thanksgiving

    Fun Facts

    • The Pilgrims often had days for giving thanks. These days were usually spent fasting and praying, not feasting.
    • The first Thanksgiving feast was held in early autumn of 1621, after the first harvest.
    • We’re not sure if wild turkey was on the first Thanksgiving menu. Duck was probably more likely.
    • Pilgrim women roasted the ducks over a fire. The feast also probably included stewed pumpkin and samp, a porridge made from ground corn.
    • Massasoit, king of the Wampanoag people, was cautiously friendly toward the Pilgrims. He gave them help and ensured their safety. He and his men were honored guests at the feast. The Wampanoags brought deer, or venison, to the meal.
    • The first Thanksgiving was not one meal. Feasting lasted for about a week.
    • The children played games, such as Blind Man’s Bluff. Both Wampanoag and Pilgrim children played with dolls and balls.
    • Adult men enjoyed shooting games. 

    Vocabulary

    1. Anchor: to secure a ship at sea or resting in a harbor
    2. Fast: to go without food or water, usually as a sign of religious devotion
    3. Venison: deer meat

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Question: Has America always celebrated Thanksgiving?

    Answer: George Washington and a few other leaders called for a day of Thanksgiving, but it did not become a national holiday until 1863. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called for a national observance of Thanksgiving. He said, “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

    Learn More

    Visit Scholastic to learn more about the First Thanksgiving.

    Read Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.

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