American Thanksgiving Celebrations

A Study for Young People
Sunday School Lesson


Kathryn Capoccia

All Scripture references taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version © 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

As Godís people we are to be a thankful people. The words "thanks" or "thankful" or "thanksgiving" are used 168 times in the Bible; the word "praise" is used 286 times in the context of thanksgiving. There are many verses in the Bible about giving thanks, but if we look at just three Psalms, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 118:1,29 and Psalm 136, we can see that we are commanded to, "give thanks", or to, "throw praise". And the object of our thanks and our praises is to be the LORD--not man, not nature--the LORD. We are commanded to express our gratitude and praise to the LORD, Yahweh (a name used 6,399 times in the Bible). Yahweh is the, "I Am Who I Am", the name Moses heard God call Himself at the burning bush (EXO 3:14,15), the Self-Existent One, also called God Almighty (El Shaddai: GEN 17:1; EXO 6:3).

The psalmists in Psalms 106, 118, and 136 tell us why God is worthy of our thanks. First, they say, "for He is good". God is not only the Self-Existent One who is All-Powerful, He is good. He is tob, "pleasant, agreeable, pleasing to us". The psalmists then go on to say that God is praiseworthy because, "His love endures forever"; that is, His love toward His people and His faithfulness to them are never-ending. The psalmists recount the many acts of power and wisdom He performed as Creator and as Redeemer for His covenant people which make Him worthy of adoration and praise: He inflicted the plague of the first-born on Egypt and brought Israel out of bondage; He parted the Red Sea and brought Israel safely through the waters while destroying Pharaohís army; He led Israel through the desert; He struck down the kings of Canaan and gave their lands to Israel; He cared for Israel throughout history; and His love endures forever. Therefore, it is appropriate to, "give thanks to the God of heaven" (PSA 136:26).

In the New Testament also Christians are commanded to be thankful to God. For example, in the book of Ephesians, Christians are commanded to be, "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (EPH 5:20). In the book of Thessalonians we are commanded to, "give thanks in all circumstances for this is Godís will for you in Christ Jesus" (1TH 5:18). In Hebrews we are commanded to express thanks to God with reverence and with awe (HEB 12:28). And one of the themes of the book of Colossians is thankfulness (COL 1:12; 2:7; 3:15-17; 4:2).

How do we "give thanks"? In the Old Testament, the LORDíS people were mandated to bring thank offerings to Him and to offer up "the sacrifice of praise" to Him; also, they were commanded to set aside certain days of the year as days specifically for thanksgiving and feasting. These days were: the Feast of the New Moon, at the beginning of each month (NUM 28:11-15; EZR 3:5); the Feast of Passover, celebrated at evening on the 14th day of the first month (Abib or Nissan; i.e. April) to commemorate Godís deliverance of the nation of Israel from Egyptian bondage (EXO 12:11, 21, 27, 43, 48; 12:14); the Feast of Pentecost (also called the "feast of harvest", the feast of weeks", and the "feast of firstfruits"), celebrated exactly seven Sabbaths and one day after Passover (EXO 23:16; 34:22; 28:26; LEV 23:15ff); and the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths or Ingatherings, celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month and five days after the Day of Atonement, which memorialized Israelite tent-life after the exodus (EXO 23:16,17; 34:22; LEV 23:33-43; DEU 16:13-15). Over time the Jews added two other thanksgiving feasts, which were universally observed as part of the traditional Jewish calendar: Purim, on the 14th and 15th days of Adar (March), which honored Jewish deliverance from Persian annihilation (EST 9:16ff); and Hanukkah or Dedication, an eight day celebration beginning on the 25th of Kislev (December), celebrating the rededication of the Temple following the victories of Judas Maccabeus against the Greeks in 167 B.C. †††

And while New Testament Christians were not required to keep the Jewish calendar of holy days, since the law of grace had replaced the Law and its requirements (ROM 7:4-6; 14:1-5; 2CO 3:14; GAL 3:2,3; 4:9,10; COL 2:16-23; HEB 4:1-10), Christians were commanded to offer to God, "a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that confess His name" (HEB 13:15), to offer God thank offerings and gifts (1CO 16:2), and to renew their sense of gratitude through Communion (LUK 22:19). Christians were also commanded to offer themselves up as thank offerings to God (ROM 6:13; 12:1). They chose to commemorate the resurrection of Christ by moving the day of corporate worship from the Sabbath to Sunday (ACT 20:7; 1CO 16:2); by the second century AD, Easter was observed as a holy festival day, as was Christmas.

Early European explorers and settlers in America had these Biblical precepts and knew that if they had grateful hearts they had to express their "thanks" to God. American thanksgiving traditions date back to over 400 years, to AD 1540, when Spanish explorers first traveled across American soil in search of treasure. For the last 100 years or so we have had a special day when we as a nation we bow and say, "Thank You, God". On the fourth Thursday of the month of November, "Thanksgiving Day", we follow the example of the Pilgrims in holding a special commemorative thanksgiving feast. But, while the names of the Pilgrims of the Massachusettsí Plymouth Plantation--Miles Standish, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, Elder Brewster, Governors John Carver, William Bradford and Edward Winslow, and Squanto the Indian--are irrevocably associated with "Thanksgiving Day," there have been others who have also thankfully worshipped the God who cared for them. These others may not have had as great an impact upon our society as a whole but their celebrations were just as sincere and their gratitude as heartfelt as their more famous counterpart. To truly understand how giving praise to God has always been a part of American life itís necessary to look into history, starting in the 16th century.

Texas claims the first actual Thanksgiving Day. In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish soldier and explorer, and the 1,500 Spanish troops with him, marched from Mexico City northward in search of gold and to discover the legendary city of Quivira. In May 1541, after having endured hardships with Indians while futilely searching parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, Coronado and his troops camped for 14 days in the Texas Panhandle along the Palo Duro Canyon. There on May 23rd, 1541, they held a service of thanksgiving for the abundant food, fresh water and pasture-lands that they had found there. Afterward they continued their quest, traveling through Kansas and Oklahoma for several more months, before returning to Mexico City empty-handed.

The second recorded "Thanksgiving" celebration took place at Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville, Florida , on June 30th, 1564. On that date French Huguenots (French Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries) who had come to the New World for religious freedom, took time to give thanks to God with a hymn of thanksgiving and prayer for the future after they had successfully begun their colony by constructing huts of logs and earth and digging a well. Unfortunately, the colony they established was a short lived one.

Another "Thanksgiving" occurred on September 8th, 1565, when Don Pedro Menedez landed a Spanish expedition at what is now Mission Nombre de Dios, in St. Augustine, Fl, and immediately held a Mass of Thanksgiving. Later, Menedez dined with the local Seloy Indians in a meal of cocido (a stew of salt pork, garbanzo beans and garlic), hard sea biscuits, and red wine. This ceremony inaugurated the first permanent European settlement in the United States of America.

A more elaborate celebration occurred on April 30th, 1598, by Spanish explorers and colonists under the command of Don Juan de Onate near El Paso , Texas. This company of 400 men (130 of which had families with them), several Franciscan friars, 83 ox carts of possessions, and 7,000-8,000 animals (horses, oxen, sheep, goats and cattle) sought to launch the first major Spanish colonization of the United States. They traveled for more than four torturous months from Santa Barbara, Mexico (south of Chihuahua) through the desert until they reached the banks of the Rio Grande on April 20th, 1598. After a nine day period of refreshment, hunting, and fishing, Don Juan de Onate decreed that the general assembly should celebrate a day of thanksgiving to God the following day, the 30th. It was a memorable occasion: each person dressed up in his/her best clothes; a High Mass was conducted and a sermon was given by the friars in a chapel built under some shady trees; Don Juan made a solemn proclamation called "La Toma" (which claimed the land for Spain); a drama was written by a captain of the soldiers and presented to the colonists about the advent of the friars to New Mexico; everyone greatly feasted on fish, ducks, and geese; and the festivities were even joined by several friendly Indians (who brought quantities of fish as payment for some European clothing the Spaniardís scouting party had given them.) The next day the colonists broke camp and journeyed onward to find a suitable river crossing. Four days later, at what is now downtown El Paso, they crossed the Rio Grande and continued towards their final destination (which was north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.) Four months after leaving El Paso they arrived in the Santa Fe area, completing a trek of more than eight months through some of the most arid lands in America.

On August 9, 1607, a group of settlers, led by George Popham under a charter of the Plymouth Company, arrived at the mouth of Maineís Kennebec River and held a thanksgiving service there in gratitude for a safe Atlantic voyage and landing. However, their attempt at colonization failed and they abandoned their site within a year of their landing, leaving no permanent tradition behind.

In Jamestown, Virginia, in the spring of 1610, the residents of that troubled colony (reduced by starvation from 490 people to 60) gratefully received their supply ship, captained by Lord De la Warr, and promptly held a prayer service of thanksgiving for their rescue.

An English settlement at Berkley Plantation, Virginia, in 1619, was the site of still another "Thanksgiving Day". The settlers there held a celebration of thanks for the safe arrival of 38 new English colonists on December 4, 1619. The leader of the colony, Captain John Woodleaf, wrote instructions in the colony charter that upon that date they would henceforth perpetually observe a day of thanksgiving to "Almighty God". However, in March, 1622, the colony was massacred by an Indian attack.

In October, 1621, the most famous American "Thanksgiving" celebration took place in Massachusetts by the Puritan colony at Plymouth Plantation. In pursuit of religious freedom the Pilgrims endured a miserable ocean crossing to America in the fall of 1620, a harsh winter following a late landfall (in November, 1620), the deaths of 47 the original 102 settlers, scarce food, and inadequate housing. But the spring of 1621 brought them a friendly Indian, Squanto, who showed them how to plant corn and squash, and how to fish and hunt, and who became the means by which the settlement survived. That October, after a good harvest, the settlers held a celebration of thanksgiving and feasting which would become the inspiration for modern "Thanksgivings", though in Plymouth it was not established as a perpetual holiday.

On September 18, 1639, the Connecticut River Valley towns of Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford issued a proclamation which established a perpetual autumn holiday for thanksgiving and feasting. It was to be held in gratitude for the ordinary blessings of the past year, regardless of past events, and evidence shows that it was observed at least in 1644 and from 1649 onward.

In 1676 the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts commissioned the town clerk, Edward Rawson to produce a proclamation making June 20, 1676, a day of "Thanksgiving" to God. He wrote, "The Council has thought meet to appoint the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favor, many Particulars of which mercy might be instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of Godís afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us a people offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ."

During the 1700s it was a common practice for individual colonies to observe days of thanksgiving, particularly at harvest time. Usually these occasions were times of prayer and fasting. In New England the custom of an annual harvest thanksgiving observance gradually prevailed. The Continental Congress even suggested during the Revolutionary War that a annual day of thanksgiving be adopted as a national custom. In 1777 a "Thanksgiving Day" was proclaimed for the colonies celebrating the surrender of British General Burgoyne to Washington at Saratoga. In 1789, George Washington proclaimed that November 26, 1789 be appointed as "A Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer"Ö"to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of God." In 1817 the state of New York adopted "Thanksgiving Day" as an annual observance, and many other states did the same by the mid 1800s.

In 1862, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, called for a day of thanksgiving to be observed in the entire Confederacy; however, this edict was binding only in Rebel territory.

Abraham Lincoln was the one who first established "Thanksgiving" as a permanent national holiday. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the fourth Tuesday in November to be set aside as "Thanksgiving Day". This date was chosen to correlate to the date on which the Mayflower anchored at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, November, 11, 1620 (which would have been November 21st by our modern Georgian calendar).

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day to the third Thursday in November to stimulate Christmas shopping (and thereby, to strengthen the economy). But a storm of protest greeted his decision and forced him to move the holiday back to its original date. In 1941, he set the date as the fourth Thursday in November, and it remains so today.

Since the Pilgrimsí "Thanksgiving" celebration is the one Americans know best, and the one which has most influenced our modern celebration, we need to take a closer look at what occurred in October, 1621. The Pilgrims of Plymouth were a loosely knit group of fervent English Christians who had traveled to the New World to find freedom to worship God without the ritualistic trappings and false teachings of the Anglican and Catholic Churches. In England these pilgrims had been parts of various religious groups. Some had been "Nonconformists" because they would not conform to the "Act Of Conformity" and use of the authorized Book of Common Prayer, nor the prescribed dogma and practices of the Anglican Church. Some had been "Dissenters" because they objected to certain teachings of the Church, such as, the claim to infallibility by its bishops and archbishops, the use of symbolism in the form of Holy Mass, Communion, Baptism, The Enthronement of Bishops, and the Solemnization of Marriages; its claims to the exclusive rights of intercession, forgiveness, and retribution; its claims to be the sole agent for interpreting the Word of God; and its claims that the Monarch was the final link to God. Some had been "Puritans" because they wanted to reform and purify the Church of England; they believed that there should be no artificial "chains of command" between God and man, that every man should be free to worship according to the dictates of his/her own conscience, and that they should be holy men and women of God who had the right to elect their own teachers and leaders. Some had been "Separatists" because they had separated themselves from those who privately disagreed with the Church but publicly remained aligned with it. However, all of their beliefs brought them under increasing persecution and surveillance by the monarchy and the Anglican Church.

Starting in 1565, repressive measures by Queen Elizabeth were brought to bear upon Nonconformists, such as heavy fines, time in the stocks, or long terms of imprisonment for failure to attend Anglican Church services. In 1571, after the Puritans had published a number of doctrinal pamphlets in opposition to the Church, a group of them were imprisoned in Bridewell, in London. Another group was imprisoned in Clink Prison 1586. In 1603, King James of Scotland, who had ascended Englandís throne, promptly issued a decree that all ministers must conform to The New Book of Canons (1604), to be enforced by Anglican bishops (who wielded the clubs of excommunication and death for dissenters.) To escape this political and religious oppression most of the northern Separatists managed to relocate to Amsterdam, Holland, in 1608; in 1609 they moved to Leyden, Holland, where they were welcomed. However, within a few years some became dissatisfied with life there: most held only menial jobs; they objected to the lack of universal observance of the Sabbath; and they disliked the assimilation of their children into Dutch culture. They longed for a spot where they could both worship freely, and be prosperous Englishmen.

In 1617 they entered into secret negotiations with the experienced London Virginia Company to obtain permission and funding to start a new colony in America. They waited three years while fruitless negotiations were conducted, but sometime around February 1620, the Leyden Puritans turned for financial assistance to a private and newly formed enterprise called the Company of Adventurers. The Puritan Church and the Company agreed to initial terms in Holland, whereby the "Planters" (the emigrants) would work in a joint-stock corporation with the "Adventurers" (the backers) for seven years, after which the proceeds of the plantation would be divided between the two parties. On the strength of an eleven point Article of Agreement drawn up by the Pilgrims and initialed by a representative of the Company named Weston, many Pilgrims liquidated their property in preparation for the imminent move. But a delay was forced upon them when it was discovered that unfavorable changes had been made to the Articles without their permission. The Pilgrims pressed forward with their plans without a resolution. After eleven years of Dutch residency, they chartered and refitted a 60 ton ship, the Speedwell, to ferry them from Holland to England. From there they planned to sail the Speedwell to America, in company with the ship provided for them by the Company, the 120 ton Mayflower. On July 26th, 1620, the ships came together in Southampton, England, in preparation for the trip to the Virginia territory. Of the 400 Puritans who wanted to make the trip only 120 could be fitted on the two vessels. The rest agreed to wait for subsequent voyages to see the New World, and in some cases, to join family members. However, the Speedwell proved unseaworthy and after three attempts to correct her problems she was abandoned and most of her passengers were transferred to the Mayflower.

On the 6th of September, 1620, the Mayflower set sail for America almost two months late with 102 passengers, 35 from the Puritan Church in Leyden and 67 from the London Separatists who had joined them in their enterprise. There were 24 families represented among the settlers. The passenger list included their spiritual leader, Elder Brewster, Miles Standish (who had served in the Dutch army and became the groupís military expert), John Carver (who would become the first Governor of the colony), William Bradford and Edward Winslow (who would also become Governors of the colony) and John Alden and Priscilla Mullins (whose romance was to be immortalized in Longfellowís poetry). Two of the organizers of the Pilgrims, Pastor John Robinson, and William Brewster, had opted to stay behind in Holland to shepherd the Christians there.††††† †††††††††

After a stormy and uncomfortable crossing the grossly overloaded ship reached the shores of Cape Cod on November 9th, 1620, 64 days after sailing out of Plymouth Sound. They were 300 miles off course from their original destination, Virginia. Their first landfall was deemed unsuitable for the site of a new colony so they searched for a better spot, though hampered by poor weather; on Monday, December 11, 1620, they discovered a suitable location along the coast of Plymouth Bay, 24 miles away from their initial landing.

The onset of winter necessitated that shelters be constructed as soon as possible but the colonists were ill from their trans-Atlantic crossing; they were disheartened and out of condition; the weather was wet and bitterly cold with high winds. Work progressed slowly. To reduce the number of homes needed the people divided themselves into 19 "family units." However, it was agreed that the "Common House" was to be constructed before individual homes so that the Pilgrims could transfer all of their tools and supplies to land. By January 9th the Common House was nearly completed and work began on the smaller buildings.

The work of felling trees, preparing logs for construction and digging in the icy ground for foundations was exhausting. Without proper rest, nutritious hot meals, and adequate shelter, the colonists began to succumb to serious illness; the Common House became a hospital. Three men had died on the crossing, three died in December, and five more people died in January. In the Spring a flood of deaths occurred from an epidemic. At one time only seven people of the entire company were well enough to care for the rest. In all, by the end of April half of the 102 settlers had died; thirteen of the twenty-four husbands and fourteen of the eighteen wives were lost, four of the twenty-four families had been wiped out and sixteen families had suffered loss. To conceal their losses from the ever observant, hostile surrounding Indians, graves for the dead were dug secretly at night and corn was planted over the flattened graves. By Spring there were only twenty-three men left in the camp who could carry a weapon.

Despite their slow progress buildings went up and fortifications were constructed. On March the 6th, 1621, the first few garden seeds were sown in America. March 16th saw the Pilgrims make their first face to face contact with a friendly American Indian. On that day Samoset, the Paramount chief of the Morattigan Indians of Maine, walked into the Englishmenís camp, saluted them and greeted them with the word, "Welcome." He told them, in broken English, about their land--that their camp was built upon land that had belonged to the Patuxet Indians, who had perished four years previously in a plague--and about the dangerous Indians of the area. In return, the Pilgrims presented him with the gifts of a horsemanís coat and a meal. He spent that night with them and left the next day with a knife, a bracelet, a ring, and the urgings of the Pilgrims to return with the local Wampanoag Indians for trade in beaver skins (a cash crop needed to repay their debt to the Company.) The next day he returned with four Wampanoag Indians, who had three or four beaver pelts to trade. And on March 22, 1621, he appeared in the camp with Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, the only surviving Patuxet Indian. Squanto became a great friend of the Pilgrims, negotiating a peace treaty between them and Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief, and teaching the settlers how to prepare the soil for planting Indian corn and how to fertilize the corn seed with fish from the brook. He instructed them in how to hunt, and how to harvest from the ocean.

That spring, the Pilgrims were able to sow six acres of barley and peas and twenty acres of Indian corn. But at harvest time the pea crop failed and the barley was poor, though the Indian corn had done well. In a letter dated December 12, 1621, Edward Winslow, a settler of the Plantation, wrote, "Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barely indifferent good, but our peas not worth gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom." The corn crop made it possible for the colonists to double their ration of grain left over from the Mayflower to about a peck of meal per week per person and they decided to celebrate with a thanksgiving holiday. Again Winslow wrote, "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, so that we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors."

Two weeks before the celebration was to take place a proclamation was issued stating that a harvest festival was to be held, which would be preceded by a special religious service and would be open to both Separatist church members and nonmembers. Everyone was urged to publicly offer gratitude for Godís provision. The invitation was also extended to chief Massasoit. The settlers had much to be grateful for: for the first time since their arrival the people had more than enough to eat, they were beginning to accumulate beaver pelts for shipment back to England, they enjoyed peace with the Indians, and the horrors of the winter (which had unified them) seemed to be long past.

The surviving women, four adults and two teen-aged girls (14 women had died during the winter), prepared for the feast by grinding corn for bread and perhaps pressing grapes for wine; the children (9 little girls and 15 boys) may have helped by gathering wild plums and wild berries; the men (25?) provided meat--fowl and sea food. In response to the invitation Massasoit appeared in camp with three braves. Two days later he was joined by ninety other braves who provided five deer, a flock of geese, fifteen swordfish and small sweet apples for the celebration.

The ceremonies began on the last morning of the festival with a worship service led by Elder Brewster. Then ground sports, such as foot racing and wrestling were held, as well as knife throwing contests. The settlers demonstrated musket drilling and shot a cannon volley. Then the feasting began in mid-afternoon at the fort. Everyone was seated in the open at long tables. At the end of the meal the settlers toasted the Indians as friends. The adults exchanged gifts with each other: Massasoit was given a bolt of cloth by Bradford, the warriors received cooking pots and colored beads in strings. The Indians reciprocated with a beaver cloak for Bradford and several freshly killed deer that could be smoked and stored for winter. The Indians presented the children with lumps of candy made from sugar extracted from wild beet plants.

When the ceremonies were completed Elder Brewster quoted the Bible as a benediction, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" and "Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." Edward Winslowís recollection of that feast states, "At which time, amongst 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 deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, 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".

When we hold our Thanksgiving feasts today we mirror the Pilgrims. But when we look even farther back to the earliest explorers we can see that grateful people have always expressed their praise and thanks. Our "Thanksgiving Day" is a unique holiday. It is an attempt to honor Almighty God on a national level by a people whose forefathers worshipped and praised Him for His Providence and love. Our "Thanksgiving Day" has become an American institution, but it will only remain meaningful to us if we cultivate a relationship of love, gratitude, and trust with the One to whom it was dedicated, God Himself. As Americans and Christians when we celebrate "Thanksgiving Day" this year it would be good to remember our legacy of thanksgiving and let us worship Him truly, giving Him all the praise for all that we have, all that we are, and all that we may be. God is the reason for our celebration. Let us not miss the spirit of our forefathers and of this holiday by merely thanking our families or friends for their love; this holiday was established for Godís glory and it is to Him that we owe our thanks.

*A list of food at the Pilgrims banquet was not exhaustively recorded but their menu that day could have included:

Fish: swordfish, cod, bass, herring, shad, bluefish, and lots of eel.

Seafood: clams, lobsters, mussels, and small quantities of oysters.

Birds: wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and other waterfowl, and occasionally eagles (which supposedly tasted like mutton.)

Meat: venison, possibly bacon or salt pork.

Grain: small quantities of wheat flower, Indian corn and corn meal, and barley (which was mostly used for making beer.)

Fruits: apples, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, cherries, blueberries, gooseberries (these were not in season but dried ones could have been consumed.)

Vegetables: small quantities of peas, squash (perhaps pumpkin), beans.

Nuts: walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, ground nuts.

Herbs and Seasonings: onions, leeks, strawberry leaves, currants, sorrel, yarrow, carvel, brookline, liverwort, watercress, and flax: from England they brought seeds which may have included radishes, lettuce, carrots, onions, and cabbage. Olive oil may have been brought over, though much of their supplies of oil and butter had to be sold prior to sailing because of unforeseen expenses.

Drinks: beer (the primary beverage for all ages), grape wine, hard liquor similar to whiskey or brandy, and spring head water.

Condiments: maple syrup, honey, small quantities of butter, olive oil, Holland cheese, possibly eggs.

*What they did not have: ham (they had no pigs), sweet potatoes or yams, corn-on-the-cob, popcorn (Indian corn was not very good popped), cranberries (there was no sugar with which to sweeten them), or pumpkin pie (a no-crust custard may have been available).


The Mayflower Compact by Frank R. Donovan, Grosset and Dunlap, New York, © 1968.

The Mayflower by Vernon Heaton, Mayflower Books, New York City, © 1980.

Rock of Freedom: The Story of the Plymouth Colony by Noel B. Gerson, Julian Messner, Inc., New York, © 1964.

"Thanksgiving" by Michael H. Lester

Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History, by Diana Karter Applebaum, Facts on File Publications, New York, © 1984.

"The First Thanksgiving Day Observance by the U.S.", www.

"The First Thanksgiving": Mayflower Home Page, www.

"The First Thanksgiving": 1st Thanksgiving Home Page, www.

"The First Thanksgiving? On the First Coast, of Course!", Marrnes Media, Inc., 2149 Mango Place, Jacksonville FL 32207 USA, © 1996.

"The First Thanksgiving Proclamation", webmaster@polarnet. com.

"The Philadelphia Inquirer", Thursday, November 27, 1997.

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, © 1975, pg. 521-526.


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