The True History of Thanksgiving


This image is not historically accurate, showing how many people misinterpret the holiday. Commons right photo Painted by Jean Leon Gerome Farris

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the U.S celebrating the blessings of the past year. Although overlooked by Christmas in most cases, Thanksgiving is an important holiday that should be celebrated. But what really happened before, during, and after Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving, which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November, is based on the colonial Pilgrim’s harvest meal. In the year 1620, the Pilgrims were not happy with the religion ruled by the king of England, so they decided to move to Holland and Amsterdam. In these countries, they made a name for themselves and started calling each other saints. But unfortunately, both cities fell into poverty which led the Pilgrims back to England. A lot of the Pilgrims were arrested and even killed for their beliefs. This was a big problem for them, so they fled. 

The Pilgrims set first sail on July 22, 1620, on the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Mayflower and the Speedwell had to turn around two times because of leaks. In the end, they decided to leave the leaky Speedwell in England, taking all 192 people on the Mayflower. The 66-day trip was sickening, gross, and smelly. The Mayflower was not the flower-filled cruise that you learned about in kindergarten, not to mention the ship was only about 100 feet long, so everyone was crowded like sardines. 

The Mayflower did not have toilets or running water which meant that the passengers had to do their business in chamber pots behind small curtains.  Since there was no place to empty the chamber pots, bowls of urine and fecal matter were left on the open, lidless, and sloshing in the storm waves. This made the Mayflower a nightmare for the Pilgrims for 66 days. 

During one of the biggest storms, a man standing on the top deck of the Mayflower was thrown overboard and never retrieved, making him the only death on the Mayflower. Although a tragedy is always a shame, a child named Oceanus Hopkins was born on the voyage, making the total number of people who arrived at the same at the beginning and end of the voyage. 

Even though the first half of the journey was smooth with calm seas, the second half of the trip was rough. For comparison, anyone who has ridden a pirate ship ride at an amusement park can compare that to the Mayflower for about 33 days. 

It was incredibly hard to sleep on the Mayflower, with some of the reasons being the smell, the noise, the sick people, yelling, and the motion made it almost impossible to sleep. Since it was hard to tell if it was night or day in the Mayflower, people would just sleep when they could. 

Halfway through the trip, the Mayflower was knocked off course by a storm on their way to Virginia. The storm made the Pilgrims go way farther North then they planned; which landed them in Massachusetts. After 66 days on the Mayflower, everyone agreed they were not willing to get back on the ship. A lot of the people were not happy with this choice and wanted to abandon their fellow Pilgrims for land farther South. Since it was September, it was getting very cold, so walking hundreds of miles would kill mostly everyone involved in the movement.

The decision was made for everyone to stick together, with a document stating this being signed by 41 men aboard the Mayflower. This document was later called the Mayflower Compact. Although the efforts, about 102 Pilgrims died during the first Winter of 1620-21.

When spring and summer arrived, the surviving Pilgrims were happy to be able to plant crops now that the weather was warm. During the summer the Pilgrims built up houses and farms. The Pilgrims also made friends with the local tribe of Native Americans, who they shared with.

On the fourth Thursday in November 1621, the Pilgrims invited their Native American friends to a feast on their part. The Pilgrims used their crops and made lots of food, and the Native Americans hunted for food to serve at the feast. The feast was a success! Everyone thanked God for the blessings in the past year.

There was a lot of variety when it came to food during the first Thanksgiving, including but not limited to ham, lobster, clams, ham, and venison. However, contrary to popular belief, turkey was not served during the first Thanksgiving. After that day the Pilgrims had an amazing friendship with the local Native Americans until 1692. So, the question is did you learn more about Thanksgiving history?