Thanksgiving Myths and Misconceptions
This November, schoolchildren all over America will don black construction paper hats and fake buckles in honor of the first Thanksgiving. But are they hearing the real story?
Myth: The Pilgrims were the first colonists in the New World.
Fact: The famous Pilgrims that we associate with Thanksgiving arrived in 1620 – thirteen years after the first successful colony was established at Jamestown, Virginia.
Myth: Once the Pilgrims landed in the New World, they left the Mayflower behind.
Fact: The Mayflower arrived off the coast of Massachusetts on November 21, 1620 which left little time to build homes before harsh winter weather began. Anchored off the coast, the Mayflower was home to many Pilgrims throughout their first winter in the New World.
Myth: Pilgrims dressed in black and white with buckles and pointy hats.
Fact: Black is a very hard color to achieve using natural dyes – the only source of dyes available during colonial times. Colonists lucky enough to have black clothing reserved it for Sunday church services and special occasions. During the rest of the week, Pilgrims were more likely to be found in earth tones.
Myth: The feast celebrated in autumn, 1621 was the first Thanksgiving.
Fact: Native people on this continent have celebrated the harvest and given thanks to their creator for thousands of years.
Myth: The Thanksgiving feast included mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
Fact: It’s more likely that the feast included wild fowl such as turkey, swan and eagles; venison and seal; vegetables like pumpkin (perhaps stewed), peas, beans and carrots; and fruits and nuts.
Myth: The Pilgrims prepared a lovely feast and invited the Native Americans to Thanksgiving.
Fact: The Pilgrims did not call this feast Thanksgiving. It was more of a harvest celebration. For them, Thanksgiving was a day of prayer to thank God when something really good happened. As for the food, much of it was likely brought and prepared by the natives.
Myth: The Pilgrims and Native Americans sat together around a table for their feast.
Fact: Historians believe that about 90 native Wampanoag people joined the 50 or so Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation. With so many people eating, seating was limited and they didn’t even use forks!
Myth: After the meal, the Native Americans went home to their village.
Fact: The harvest celebration lasted for three full days and included eating, drinking and playing games.
Want to learn more about the Pilgrims and colonial America? Check out my book, Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself.