Being a descendant of one of the “Gentlemen Adventurers” on the Mayflower, I have been interested in the realities of the First Thanksgiving. And so, for the enlightenment of us all here are some interesting facts about Thanksgiving.
The First Thanksgiving was a harvest festival to celebrate a successful corn harvest. It was celebrated in 1621 with feasting and games and prayer as was common in England.
Some of the food that would have been available to the pilgrims were:
-Fish: cod, bass, herring, shad, eel
-Seafood: clams, lobsters, mussels and oysters
-Birds: wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and waterfowl
-Meat: venison and perhaps salt port and chicken
-Fruit: raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, cherries, blueberries, dried gooseberries
-Vegetables: peas, squash, beans
-Grain: wheat flour, Indian corn and corn meal, barley ( used mostly to make beer)
-Nuts: walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, ground nuts
-Herbs and Seasonings: onions, leeks, strawberry leaves, currants, sorrel, yarrow, carvel, brooklime, liverwort, watercress, flax.
-Other: maple syrup, honey, some butter and Holland cheese, eggs.
Foods that would not have been at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth:
-Ham (the pilgrims had no pigs)
-Sweet potatoes or yams: these had not yet been introduced to New England
-Corn on the Cob: Indian corn was only used for cornmeal
-Cranberry Sauce: Cranberries were available but not sugar
-Pumpkin Pie: The pilgrims may have had a pumpkin pudding but no crusts or whipped cream.
The feast was probably not repeated as a yearly holiday and the pilgrims would probably have not called it a Thanksgiving Celebration. Thanksgiving was first proclaimed a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Folks in El Paso, Texas claim that the first Thanksgiving day in the United States occurred in El Paso Del Norte in 1598. El Paso celebrates this day with an annual reenactment of Don Juan de Onates First Thanksgiving on the last Saturday and Sunday in April.
Check out some of our Thanksgiving day books and videos at the Santa Fe Public Library. Also check out some of these websites:
Pilgrim hall Museum: www.pilgrimhall.org
El Paso Regional History: www.lared-latina.com/Elhist.htm
And which ever version of the First Thanksgiving you choose to celebrate, have a Happy Holiday and spend a few moments thinking about what you are thankful for.
KS @ LaFarge