Thanksgiving, You’re Doing It Wrong

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell (1943)

Think you’re having a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal? Think again!


The First Thanksgiving 1621 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899)

The First Thanksgiving 1621 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899)

Thanksgiving in the United States is a long, time-honored American tradition. It is a day we give thanks and celebrate the Pilgrims and their first successful harvest in 1621.

Every year there is the same debate about the appropriateness of Thanksgiving what with the devastation of Native Americans and the fact that the Pilgrim Thanksgiving was not even the first Thanksgiving in what would later become the United States! Before the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Jamestown in Virginia and St. Augustine in Spanish Florida both had feasts where they celebrated their harvests with their Native American neighbors. Jamestown colonists did it over 10 years before the Pilgrims and St. Augustine colonists did it over 50 earlier.

Debates and arguments aside, Thanksgiving is a great time for loved ones to get together and gorge on delicious meats and pies. Thanksgiving is a part of our culture and the tradition has been passed down from generation to generation. Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving just like the insanely religious Pilgrims did… Or do we?

How to Do It Like a Pilgrim:

1. Celebrate for 3 days.

2. Serve venison (deer), geese, duck, and some seafood as your main meal.

3. Don’t serve turkey.

4. Don’t serve anything made out of potatoes.

5. Don’t serve pumpkin pie.

6. Don’t cook with sugar. You ran out a while back.

7. Don’t serve stuffing or dressing*. Serve cornmeal porridge instead.

8. Go hunting and play games.

9. Don’t celebrate this way ever again.

10. In a couple of weeks, ban Christmas.

The “First” Thanksgiving was a little different than you probably imagined. The Pilgrims just didn’t have access to a lot of the food that are now a big part of the American Tradition. I think it’s fun to compare and contrast Thanksgiving in 1621 to Thanksgiving today.  Could you do a real Pilgrim Thanksgiving?


Great Resources for the Classroom:

Video from The History Channel:


Primary Source from Eyewitness to History:

Edward Winslow wrote a letter to his England describing the feast.:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.

At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, and many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.



*Cornbread dressing > Stuffing. It’s the truth. If you don’t agree, we will just have to agree that you are wrong.

5 thoughts on “Thanksgiving, You’re Doing It Wrong

    • I will enjoy my dressing. I learned about Florida when my students were doing a state project. I always ordered visitor’s guides for my kids to read. FL is pretty proud of that historical fact.

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