|The First Thanksgiving
Adapted by Rick Shur, from
According to their leader,4 William Bradford,4,2 the Pilgrims left Europe for America in order to teach Christianity to the native Americans,4 the Indians. They did not leave in order to make a better life for themselves or to escape religious persecution.
The Pilgrims were trying to land in Virginia to join other English settlers who had arrived there earlier,1 but their ship went off course,1 and they landed far north of there on Plymouth Rock,6 Massachusetts on December11,61620. Their first winter was devastating. Weakened by the seven-week crossing,2 they came down with pneumonia and consumption. They began to die rapidly. They lost 46 of the original 101 people who sailed on the Mayflower.
The Pilgrims obviously needed help,1 and that help came from an English-speaking Indian of the Wampanoag nation,4 Squanto. Squanto decided to stay with the Pilgrims for the next few months and teach them how to survive. He brought them food and skins. He taught them how to grow new vegetables and how to build Indian-style houses. He educated the Pilgrims on poisonous plants,7 medicine,7 how to get sap from maple trees,7 how to use fish for fertilizer,7 and dozens of other important survival skills.
The harvest of 1621,5 which came nine months later,5 was a bountiful one,1 and the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast. This was a celebration,1 and the colonists praised God for the harvest.
The event probably occurred at the end of September,1 but historians don’t know the exact date. The settlers asked Squanto and the Wampanoag leader and chief,4 Massasoit,4 to bring their family members to dine with them. Squanto and Massasoit arrived with 90 relatives,5 which surprised the Pilgrims,5,1 for they had no idea that there were so many Indians in the area. Nevertheless,2 there was enough food for everybody,1 and the feast lasted three days. The Pilgrims and Indians ate outdoors at large tables and competed together in games of skill and strength.
The colonists provided wild fowl (birds),1 and the Indians brought five deer. According to journals written at the time,2 the feast consisted of quite a few different dishes,4 including lobster,7 goose,7 roast duck,7 turkey,7 corn,7 yams (sweet potatoes),7 different kinds of berries,7 codfish,7 stewed pumpkin,7 venison (deer meat),7 fruit,7 and different types of cheese.
In modern times,2 few American families enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner as enormous and lavish as the one enjoyed in 1621,1 and many people are satisfied just to have turkey,7 cranberries,7 sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie,5 which is the most typical American Thanksgiving dinner.