The First Thanksgiving
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. This harvest meal has become a symbol of coop- eration and interaction between English colonists and Na- tive Americans. Although this feast is considered by many to the very first Thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. Native American groups throughout the Americas, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Creek and many others organized har- vest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner re- joice together after we had gathered the fruit of our la- bors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five dee , which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governo , and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
Historians have also recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Berkeley Plantation, Virginia. At this site near the Charles River in December of 1619, a group of British settlers led by Captain John Woodlief knelt in prayer and pledged "Thanksgiving" to God for their healthy arrival after a long voyage across the Atlantic.
This event has been acknowledged by some scholars and writers as the official first Thanksgiving among European settlers on record. Whether at Plymouth, Berkeley Planta- tion, or throughout the Americas, celebrations of thanks have held great meaning and importance over time. The legacy of thanks, and particularly of the feast, have sur- vived the centuries as people throughout the United States gather family, friends, and enormous amounts of food for their yearly Thanksgiving meal.
Dinner for Breakfast: Pilgrim Meals:
The biggest meal of the day for the colonists was eaten at noon and it was called noonmeat or dinner. The house- wives would spend part of their morning cooking that meal. Supper was a smaller meal that they had at the end of the day. Breakfast tended to be leftovers from the pre- vious day's noonmeat.
In a pilgrim household, the adults sat down to eat and the children and servants waited on them. The foods that the colonists and Wampanoag Indians ate were very similar, but their eating patterns were different. While the colo- nists had set eating patterns—breakfast, dinner, and sup- per—the Wampanoags tended to eat when they were hun- gry and to have pots cooking throughout the day.
What was actually on the Menu?
What foods topped the table at the first harvest feast? His- torians aren't completely certain about the full bounty, but it's safe to say the pilgrims weren't gobbling up pumpkin pie or playing with their mashed potatoes. Following is a list of the foods that were available to the colonists at the time of the 1621 feast. However, the only two items that historians know for sure were on the menu are venison and wild fowl, which are mentioned in primary sources. The most detailed description of the "First Thanksgiving" comes from Edward Winslow from A Journal of the Pil- grims at Plymouth, in 1621:
Source: Kathleen Curtin, Food Historian at Plimoth Plantation and History.com