Presently celebrated the fourth Thursday in November, the Thanksgiving holiday is depicted as a day of celebratory feasting, of being thankful for what we have in our lives. The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims. Though the details of the day are often unclear, they are said to have celebrating with a feast to give thanks for their newfound friendship and alliance.
On that first Thanksgiving, amidst meats and poultries, vegetables and grains, the Pilgrims were joyous. They’d befriended the Native Americans. They needed the Native Americans in order to survive the harsh winters. They needed them for many reasons. According to the writings of Edward Winslow, a leader of the new colony who was present during the first Thanksgiving, there were approximately 90 Native Americans at the feast.
The Native Americans were said to be happy as well. Who wouldn’t be happy with a three-day feast? But they also likely realized the change that was taking place. Previously the only settlers on land, they now had to share the land and gave up their rights to Plymouth. So while the first Thanksgiving was a celebration for the Pilgrims because of new things to come, it was a goodbye of sorts for the Native Americans. Things would never be the same for them again.
So while they dined on enough food to fill their stomachs and serve them for a week, one can only imagine what it must have been like to sit at the table with these decidedly different groups of people. True, Thanksgiving and Pilgrims go together like mashed potatoes and gravy. But there is much more to this one-time harmonious meal than we presently realize.
It is also important to note that, although we celebrate Thanksgiving annually, the feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans was not repeated. Still, we are grateful for the first Thanksgiving.
Joseph Paige © 2006