1 A family get-together at Thanksgiving is a long-standing tradition in our country. Thanksgiving is the holiday when relatives congregate to enjoy each other's company and appreciate a good meal together.
2 Another Thanksgiving tradition is school activities about the Pilgrims and the Indians. Students in the early grades learn about being thankful for their food by acting out scenes of the harvest celebration at Plymouth Colony. Can you remember a Thanksgiving activity from your own early school years? Maybe you dressed up in a black and white Pilgrim outfit or a colorful feathered Indian headdress made of construction paper. Maybe you painted scenes with Indian teepees in the background. Or maybe you drew a picture of the first Thanksgiving feast with turkey and pumpkin pie served up by generous Pilgrims.
3 Is this what the first Thanksgiving was really like? The answer is both "yes" and "no."
4 Yes, there have been harvest celebrations and celebrations of thanks since the earliest days of our country. Longer than that, as a matter of fact. Since ancient times, Native American tribes have held ceremonies of thanks for a good harvest and for other good fortune.
5 So, what parts are not true? In plays and stories about the 1621 Thanksgiving, often called the "First Thanksgiving," many of the details are inaccurate. In fact, so many of the details of some traditional elementary school Thanksgiving plays were inaccurate, that the Thanksgiving story you or your parents learned in elementary school may have been only part history. The other part was myth.
6 A myth is a story made up and handed down to teach or explain something. The myth of the First Thanksgiving has only been around for about 100 years.
7 What about before that? What was the "First Thanksgiving" really like?
8 That "First Thanksgiving" was a harvest celebration too. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags were on friendly terms at that time. The Pilgrims had gone through difficult times, and the Wampanoag had helped them to survive. They had brought the Pilgrims food such as turkey or venison, and they had shown the Pilgrims how to grow corn and other crops suited to the area.
9 In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims planned a harvest celebration and invited the Wampanoags.
10 Many members of the Wampanoag tribe came from their homes, round-roofed wigwams, not pointed teepees, to the Pilgrim village for the feast. They wore their hair in braids, and skipped the fancy headdress favored by some western tribes. The Native American guests brought much of the food for the feast. They may have brought many of the same foods they had provided for the settlers during their times of hardship - venison, game birds, corn, beans, and vegetables.
11 Maybe the centerpiece on the table was a big turkey; maybe it was another kind of bird. We don't know for sure. They might have eaten pumpkin too, but it was probably served as more of a vegetable. Custardy pumpkin pie in a flaky crust was not on their menu. The recipe hadn't been invented yet.
12 The Pilgrims must have been thankful to the Native Americans for all of their help, but they may have had another reason for inviting them to the feast too. The Pilgrims hoped to make a treaty with the Indians that would guarantee their ownership of the land they had settled on.
13 Anyway, they feasted together that year. The Pilgrims did make a treaty with the Wampanoag, but the friendly relations between the two groups did not last for long. In fact, not too many years later, settlers would be at war against Native Americans.
14 Still, the tradition of a feast of thanksgiving has lived on. Families gather together at Thanksgiving, even if they don't always get along so well either, and enjoy each other's company and give thanks for their good fortune.