The First Thanksgiving: What Happened, When Was It, And What Are They Hiding?

By Sarah Norman | November 23, 2023

The First Thanksgiving

Every kid in America has the bullet points of the first Thanksgiving drilled into their heads---turkey, maize, the pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to hold hands, eat food, and yuck it up around the dinner table---but Thanksgiving isn't as simple as that. The pilgrims and America's native people did come together, but no one celebrated again for a good while, and it wasn't really considered Thanksgiving. This is a holiday that required some serious effort to become an annual tradition.

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After the pilgrims came to America, they settled a plot of land that the Patuxet tribe had abandoned because of a plague. The weather was harsh and unforgiving, but in October 1621, the last surviving Patuxet, Squanto, arrived to teach the pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn, so everyone partied.

A Three Day Feast

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The Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days and featured a drop-in from 90 Native Americans, who got down alongside the 53 pilgrims. James Baker, the vice president of research for the Plymouth Plantation, stated in 1996:

The event occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621, with the most likely time being around Michaelmas (Sept. 29), the traditional time.