MYTH # 69: The First Thanksgiving took place at Plymouth in 1621.

The heart-warming tale of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a Thanksgiving feast and prayers at Plymouth never took place. More accurately, it is a combination of two events that did take place: a harvest feast that occurred in 1621 with about 90 Wampanoag Indians and a day of thanksgiving declared by William Bradford in 1623. The pious Pilgrims did not consider that feast to be a “thanksgiving,” which to them meant solemn day of prayer at church, not a harvest celebration. Historians believe they would not have combined the two events as we do today.

An annual Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t established until the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln made it official.   

All this begs the question of where the real first Thanksgiving took place. There are other serious contenders, you know, including Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, where the settlers were specifically instructed to make the day of their arrival in 1619 a day of thanksgiving to be celebrated every year thereafter. But St. Augustine, Florida, may trump them both with its 1565 date. This is where the Spaniards celebrated with a Catholic mass and a fine meal with the Timucua Indians. Now, now, children, no squabbling . . .

The truth is, there were many official days of thanksgiving in colonial America. 

Thanksgiving myths: http://www.history.com/minisites/thanksgiving/viewPage?pageId=874

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4 Responses to MYTH # 69: The First Thanksgiving took place at Plymouth in 1621.

  1. Thanks for the info. I always like to find and realize real history. Mankind has such a propensity for misaligning the truth and making it totally self-serving. Recently I finished some books on the founding Fathers original religious views. That was very good. Keep Blogging. Keep Writing.

    P.S. I’ve been to St. Augustine, Florida and it’s beautiful.

  2. Jamie says:

    I believe George Washington also proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving for Thurs, Nov. 26 in 1789 (see http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/GW/gw004.html), more of day of prayer than a feast. My understanding is it didn’t quite catch on (and where it did was mainly in the North?) but set the stage for Lincoln’s national holiday, late in November (though, did I read that originally Lincoln’s holiday was the fourth Tuesday? and FDR moved it to third and later the fourthThursday?).

  3. Thanks! I like the idea of multiple events in different geographical locations involving shared harvest and thanks to God!

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