Skip to content

The First American Thanksgiving



Oh, the turkey! The dressing! The cranberry sauce!

The aforementioned list is what most people have as part of their annual Thanksgiving meal, and while no one will argue with the deliciousness of a menu complete with those food items, they are not very representative of what the participants of the first American Thanksgiving ate.

Only two primary documents exist that detail the events and menu from the first Thanksgiving, which was celebrated in 1621 between the surviving Pilgrims after a difficult first year in the New World, and their Wampanoag neighbors.

According to the Pilgrim Hall Museum website, the two primary documents are Edward Winslow’s account, which is recorded in “Mourt’s Relation,” and Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford’s memories of the event, which can be read in “Of Plymouth Plantation.”

Both accounts are little more than a paragraph in length.

Although they differ slightly, both men mention that a large quantity of birds were taken, though only Bradford mentions turkey as being one of those birds, and that the Wampanoag supplied five deer.

Bradford also mentions the Pilgrims had a good store of fish, including cod and bass. Plus, he lists Indian corn as being in good supply.

No mention of other side dishes or desserts is made.

The first Thanksgiving saw more Wampanoag in attendance than Pilgrims.

Of the some 100 odd Pilgrims who had set out on the journey the previous year, only half of them survived to the first harvest gathering, as Winslow called it. Sickness had carried off many.

By comparison, Winslow states Chief Massasoit showed up with approximately 90 men.

During the three days of celebration, the Pilgrims entertained and feasted with their guests.

While the first Thanksgiving menu may be very different from today’s typical fare, at least the activities associated with the event have not changed much over the years.

Happy Thanksgiving, Pilgrim!



Leave a Comment