Although the Pilgrims of Plymouth considered it a harvest celebration (not a religious day of thanksgiving), most historians point to their October, 1621 feast as America's First Thanksgiving. What as their celebration really like? How did the Pilgrims get along with the native Americans? Learn more about the history of Thanksgiving at the following sites.
Visit the History Channel to learn the truth about many common Thanksgiving myths, and to see a menu of foods likely included in the Pilgrim's 1621 harvest feast (wild turkey and pumpkins) and foods probably not on the menu (sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.) Best multimedia clicks are the audio interviews with pilgrims Myles Standish and Ellinor Billington (portrayed by actors, of course) and the five-minute History of Thanksgiving video.
This Library of Congress page introduces three "first Thanksgivings" that predate the 1621 celebration in Plymouth: those of 1541, 1564 and 1610. More about those early celebrations can be found by mousing over to the American Memory Learning Page (the link below the two illustrations) and then clicking on Thanksgiving Timeline. This illustrated timeline covers nearly five-hundred years of American Thanksgiving history.
There are only two primary sources that mention Plymouth's autumn feast of 1621: Edward Winslow's "Mourt's Relation" and William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation." Because seventeenth-century spelling can be difficult to decipher, the Pilgrim Hall Museum has published several paragraphs about the first Thanksgiving using modern spelling. To read them, following the First Thanksgiving link in the second paragraph of the first page. Other reasons to visit are the many articles about Pilgrims listed in the Pilgrim Story section.
"What really happened at the First Thanksgiving? What did they do besides eat? Football? Parades?" Become a history detective as you discover clues about what really happened at the 1621 harvest celebration. This multimedia learning activity for students in grades three through six, is my Thanksgiving pick of the day. Teachers will appreciate the extensive Teachers Guide, and students will have fun as they learn how historians separate myth from fact.
"The English colonists we call Pilgrims celebrated days of thanksgiving as part of their religion. But these were days of prayer, not days of feasting." Learn more about the history of Thanksgiving by viewing the slide show, playing the Web Quest (an interactive quiz with links to external websites for additional study) and exploring the Thanksgiving timeline. The timeline begins in 1621 with when the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag Indians to join them in a harvest feast, and ends on November 26, 1941 with the creation of our modern Thanksgiving Day by President Roosevelt. Although alluded to, there was not a Teacher Guide available at the time of my visit.