What Really Happened On The Original Thanksgiving Day?

5 Nov

What Really Happened On The Original Thanksgiving Day?

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my blog. November is here; the eleventh month of the year. Wow! I can’t believe this year is almost over. November is a month of spring in the Southern Hemisphere and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The Romans named the month of November from novem, which is Latin for nine, since November was their ninth month.

Here in the USA, November is the month for giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a national holiday here, but it was not always so. There’s a cute fact about this: the woman who wrote the classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” also played an integral role in making Thanksgiving a national holiday. She was a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. She wrote letters to elected officials and campaigned for seventeen years. Now that’s what I call perseverance! She finally convinced President Abraham Lincoln to issue a decree recognizing Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. Good for her!

My family has always celebrated Thanksgiving in the traditional way. Our meal consists of a large roasted turkey, cranberry sauce (a must at my house), mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams (which I make with cream, brown sugar and my secret ingredient: marshmallows), stuffing, cornbread and green-bean casserole. Dessert usually consists of some kind of pie—usually pumpkin, pecan or apple—and chocolate cake (my brother has to have it). This is a very time-honored menu, in keeping with the traditional meal eaten by the original pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. Elsewhere, traditional dishes may reflect the region or cultural background of those celebrating, such as macaroni and cheese, collard greens, Kugel, latkes, biscuits, rutabagas, peas and carrots, and much more. Is anyone else getting hungry?

We all know (well, most of us in the USA) the sugarcoated version of the events that transpired on that first Thanksgiving Day. Or do we really? There’s a famous quote by Winston S. Churchill, and it reads like this; “History is written by the victors.” Hmm. I wonder what he meant by that?

This is the version of Thanksgiving I was taught in school: Civilized European Pilgrims set out across the Atlantic Ocean, and their efforts were rewarded with an entire continent of untold wealth. (Never mind the half-naked natives running around.) In 1621, after working, praying and surviving a bitter winter, the pilgrims took in an abundant harvest yielded by seeds brought from home. Inviting their heathen neighbors to join them, the Pilgrims gave thanks for their New World and its riches at a meal.

I guess what you learn in school changes every few years, so you have to re-learn stuff you thought you knew (like Pluto was a planet and now it isn’t, even though it has five moons). Okay, I’m already confusing myself, so let me continue before I lose you.

So that was the story of Thanksgiving I grew up believing. I have a friend who is a Native American Indian. I just found out that she does not celebrate Thanksgiving! I asked her why, and her response completely surprised me.

Wampanoag Indian

Wampanoag Indian

She says what really happened on that first Thanksgiving Day went more like this: After two months at sea and several deaths, the Pilgrims landed in July of 1620 on the coast of Massachusetts where the Wampanoags lived. These Indians wore leather garments (adding furs during the winter) and skillfully cultivated corn, beans, squash and pumpkins. They also hunted the woods for dear, elk and bear and fished for salmon and herring.

The wheat the Pilgrims brought from Europe was completely unsuited to the New England soil and failed to germinate. Half the settlers died during that first winter. The natives took pity on the Pilgrims. They saw they had no food and did not know how to work the land. So they brought them venison and furs, taught them how to plant corn using fish as fertilizer, how to dig for clams and tap maple trees for syrup. The Indians saved them from starvation and death.

The natives had a custom of celebrating six different thanksgiving festivals during the year. A dinner party the settlers were celebrating coincided with one of the Indians’ thanksgiving festivals, and they invited the generous natives who had saved their lives.

More than ninety Indians showed up for dinner. The Pilgrim menu was not enough for such a large crowd, so several Indians went out and returned with five deer. Here’s what was actually on the original Thanksgiving menu: venison, wild duck, wild geese, eels, clams, squash, corn bread, berries and nuts.

That meal was one of the last untroubled moments the settlers and natives spent together. Journals and letters written by those first settlers contain accounts of plundering indigenous stows of food, tools and furs. If the pilgrims hit upon it, they seized it. Within fifty years, most of the Wampanoags had died off, most claimed by European diseases, others murdered outright. Today, there are still five hundred Wampanoags living in New England.

They do not celebrate the American Thanksgiving.

Whatever the history of Thanksgiving, I believe it is a day to give thanks for what we have. Too often we focus on what we don’t have—or worse—on what others have that we want. Let’s give thanks for another day of living, for the roof over our heads, for our health, our family and even our pets (that bring us so much joy). As a matter of fact, we don’t have to wait for that one day a year to be grateful. Let’s give thanks everyday because if you focus on the positive, you will see that there’s always something to be thankful for.



30 Responses to “What Really Happened On The Original Thanksgiving Day?”

  1. Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin November 5, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Whilst we do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia I have always wondered about the origin and the tradition behind it. Westerners sometimes rewrite history to suit their needs. A very interesting post. As you say whatever the reason we should give thanks every day for the many blessings in our lives.


  2. Sho Nique November 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    I am so happy to see someone correcting history, although this time jaded toward the Indian. It is I believe far more accurate than the story we white invaders are told. History is always told from the perspective of the faction telling it, which is probably why I was a history teachers bane of existence. It is quite possible they passed me with D’s just to prevent having me in their class again with my constant corrections and questions (oh and I also answered tests based on my personal research rather than the books they were teaching out of). LOL Fantastic read and I CHEER you for this wonderful (closer to history) version.
    Most of us want to believe we are wonderful as were our ancestors but the truth is that we are all savages coming from savage roots just in various forms.
    I celebrate Thanksgiving because it is a fun holiday and reason for people to get together for fun rather than a funeral. LOL
    Again, thank you for this read. I enjoyed it very much.


    • Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

      Hello Sho Nique! I’m sure there are accuracies with both versions, but you’re right History is always told from the perspective of the winner. I believe you were right in asking questions, researching and trying to get to the bottom of things. I was similar to you in that sense. I’m very happy you enjoyed the post. 🙂


  3. .MIS. Manhattan Image & Style November 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Great post! There is so much to be thankful for! 🙂

    New Blog Post: 10 Habits That Will Help You Succeed


  4. Sunni Morris November 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm #


    I agree. There is always something to be thankful for. Most people always want more and really all that is required is a roof over our heads, food for the table and adequate garments for the different seasons. Nice post.


    • Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Thank you Sunni. It’s true, but why is it so hard for some to realize this?


  5. JESS44903 November 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    This is a great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!


  6. Rat November 7, 2013 at 6:11 am #

    yeah i agree with you, Vashti. if we want to be thankful for whatever the reason is.. why wait for one particular day to express it? good point. and altogether a very nice post. Happy day to you. 🙂


  7. Kim @ 2justByou November 9, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    Lots of great info here, and I really can’t believe this year is almost over. I love the focus on giving thanks. Sometimes it’s so easy to take things for granted. Thank YOU for this post. =0)


    • Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 11, 2013 at 4:15 am #

      Hi Kim! Awww! Thank you. Yes, it is easy to take things for granted. Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 😀


  8. Amber Neal November 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Very interesting read. I never thought about that side of Thanksgiving. As I go through and teach history to my kids now I am constantly made aware that what I was so nicely told in school was sometimes so incredibly different than the real truth ( example- Christopher Colombus- totally blew me away that we celebrate a guy like that!). Thanks for stopping by and linking up with us for MMM link up party! I look forward to what you link up next! ( By the way I am opening the new link up this evening)


    • Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 11, 2013 at 4:13 am #

      Hello Amber! Thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. You’re so right, these days we have to become scholars and find our own truth. You’re welcome! It was fun linking up. 🙂


  9. Joy @ Yesterfood November 12, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Vashti, I am thankful for YOU. 🙂 You write so beautifully. So true, the Churchill quote; interesting how we have interpreted events throughout the years. It reminds me of a highway historical marker that I stopped to read one afternoon. It said something along the lines of, “At this site in 1837, fifteen settlers were murdered by a violent band of Comanche Indians.” And it occurred to me, I wonder what a Comanche historical marker might say? “On this site in 1837, our people valiantly protected their homeland against invading Europeans”, perhaps? It’s all in the point of view.

    Love, Joy


    • Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      Awww! Joy that is so sweet. You just made my day 😀 Interesting sign. You’re absolutely right, it’s all in the viewpoint of the people involved. 😉 Have a great day!


  10. Easy Life Meal & Party Planning November 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Very interesting! I guess I haven’t given a lot of thought to the story since I was a kid! And you are absolutely right that what we learn in schools is taken as a fact and then a few years later they usually change their teachings. Loved the post. Thanks for sharing on the Blog Hop Blitz.


    • Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 22, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

      Hello Terri! Thank you. Some time ago I believed that what I learned in high school was written in stone by the finger of God himself…until I went to college. Then I was informed that some of what I had learned in High school needed to be re-learned. Ha,ha! I guess we never stop learning really. Things change. Thank you so much for stopping by, and you’re very welcome, it was my pleasure linking up to the Blog Hop Blitz.


  11. Kev November 30, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    great article see:


  12. Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 22, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Hi Amber! Thank you for featuring my post on your blog and for hosting the Blog Strut! 😀


  13. Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 22, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    Hi Angela! Thank you so much for picking my post. I’m so happy and excited to be featured on the Blog Strut. 😀


  14. Vashti Quiroz-Vega November 22, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    Thank you for featuring me on your blog Stephanie!


  15. Vashti Quiroz-Vega December 5, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Thank you so much for the feature! xx



  1. Blog Strut – Owl Style #18 | ambergalore - November 22, 2013

    […] What Really Happened On Thanksgiving Day? by Vashti Quiroz-Vega […]


  2. | The Blog Strut Owl Style #18 - November 22, 2013

    […] What Really Happened On Thanksgiving Day? by Vashti Quiroz-Vega […]


  3. Bloggers Unite! Blog Strut at My Personal Accent! | The Mom in Black - November 22, 2013

    […] What Really Happened On Thanksgiving Day? by Vashti Quiroz-Vega […]


  4. The Blog Strut Owl Style #19 | My Personal Accent - December 5, 2013

    […] What Really Happened On Thanksgiving Day? by Vashti Quiroz-Vega […]


If you comment you'll put a big smile on my face.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s