The First Thanksgiving: What Happened, When Was It, And What Are They Hiding?
By | November 16, 2022
The first Thanksgiving
Every kid in America has the bullet points of the first Thanksgiving drilled into their heads---turkey, maize, the pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to hold hands, eat food, and yuck it up around the dinner table---but Thanksgiving isn't as simple as that. The pilgrims and America's native people did come together, but no one celebrated again for a good while, and it wasn't really considered Thanksgiving. This is a holiday that required some serious effort to become an annual tradition.
After the pilgrims came to America, they settled a plot of land that the Patuxet tribe had abandoned because of a plague. The weather was harsh and unforgiving, but in October 1621, the last surviving Patuxet, Squanto, arrived to teach the pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn, so everyone partied. The Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days and featured a drop-in from 90 Native Americans, who got down alongside the 53 pilgrims. James Baker, the vice president of research for the Plymouth Plantation, stated in 1996:
The event occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621, with the most likely time being around Michaelmas (Sept. 29), the traditional time.
Thanksgiving in July
The pilgrims wouldn't celebrate a second Thanksgiving until 1623, two years after their initial celebration. The next Thanksgiving wasn't given as a repeat of the first holiday, however; it was a celebration of the two weeks of rain that bolstered the pilgrim's crops and created a larger harvest than expected. They jumped the gun a bit, throwing the feast around July 30, but they had been fasting during the rainfall, so can you blame them? This Thanksgiving feast also came down from the governor and not the church, so it was less of a holy day and more of a civil recognition of the pilgrim's good fortune. At the time Governor Bradford wrote:
And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving ... By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty ... for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had ... pretty well ... so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day