There are a ton of misconceptions about the origins of Thanksgiving, here are some we’re shedding light on.
- The Pilgrims didn’t eat turkey, potatoes, or cranberries for Thanksgiving.
They did eat deer, but the now popular foods weren’t traditional until the Victorians made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
2. Pilgrims didn’t wear black outfits, buckle shoes, and big hats.
The popular image of a Pilgrim was formed in the 19th century, and at that time buckles was equivalent to quaintness.
3. When the Mayflower arrived, the Native Americans had already had content with the English.
A couple of the Wampanoags already spoke English. Their past with England was bloody and filled with slavery though.
4. Thanksgiving originally wasn’t a big feast.
The initial Thanksgivings were religious celebrations for the Puritans. In 1769, a group of pilgrim descendants who lived in Plymouth felt like their cultural authority was slipping away as New England became less relevant, and wanted to boost tourism. The dinner tradition caught on by the 19th century.
5. The image that we have of the Native Americans eating with the Pilgrims wasn’t a friendly celebration, but more a tense recognition of a treaty.
When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, the sachem (chief) Ousamequin offered the new arrivals an entente, primarily as a way to protect the Wampanoags against their rivals, the Narragansetts. They didn’t necessarily like the Pilgrims but they saw them as a way to beat their enemy.
I hope you learned something today! A reminder that it’s not okay to wear feathered headdresses or appropriate any Native American culture on Thanksgiving!