Six myths about Thanksgiving

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930), "The First Thanksgiving" (public domain) 

"Gratitude is a sign of noble souls." - Aesop

On November 27th, Thanksgiving Day in the United States, families are sitting down to a traditional meal in commemoration of the harvest celebrations held by early English settlers who survived their first tenuous years in what is now Massachusetts.

Probably the most famous Thanksgiving was the celebration in 1621, organized by Plymouth governor William Bradford. He had arrived in 1620 with other religious separatists from England on the now famous Mayflower ship.  During their first winter on the American continent, about half of the settlers died.  By the fall of the next year, the settlement had become more established and prospects had brightened. Before winter set in again, Bradford invited local Native Americans to join the colonists in a three-day festival to give thanks for the harvest.  

Why is Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday and not on a Saturday or Sunday?  According to,  post-harvest festivals were celebrated by the settlers on the day usually set aside as "Lecture Day," which was a midweek day set aside for a church meeting with topical sermons. 

The image above, painted hundreds of years later, helped to create our mental picture of what that first Thanksgiving might have been like.  However, like so many other works of art created years after an event, it contains many historical inaccuracies; myths, you might say.  
Did the early settlers eat pumpkin pie and turkey?  Where they indeed "Pilgrims"?

These are some of the questions that are answered in an interesting bit of trivia that identifies six myths about Thanksgiving. Originally printed in the quirky The Best of the Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, they were recently posted with permission on this eclectic site.  It's quite interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends!

1. Ferris's painting is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons and the Library of Congress. Copyright has expired (life of author + 70 years).
2.If you'd like to read about Bradford and the early days of the Plymouth colony, see the entry in Wikipedia, with links to Bradford's own journal.

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