“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the
highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by
them” ~John F. Kennedy
In September 1620, a small ship
called the Mayflower left
Plymouth, England, carrying 102
passengers, and crossed the
Atlantic Ocean. One month
later, the Mayflower crossed into
Massachusetts Bay, where the
Pilgrims, as they are now
commonly known, began the
work of establishing a village at
Only half of the Mayflower’s original
passengers and crew lived to see their
first spring in the New World. In
March, the remaining settlers,
received an astonishing visit from an
Abenaki Indian, Squanto, who greeted
them in English.
Squanto taught the Pilgrims,
weakened by malnutrition
and illness, how to cultivate
corn, extract sap from maple
trees, catch fish in the rivers
and avoid poisonous plants.
He also helped the settlers
forge an alliance with the
Wampanoag, a local tribe,
which would endure for more
than 50 years and tragically
remains one of the only
examples of harmony
between European colonists
and Native Americans.
In November 1621, a celebratory feast
was organized and the pilgrims
invited a group of Native American,
including the Wampanoag chief
Massasoit. Now remembered as
American’s “first Thanksgiving”—
although the Pilgrims themselves
may not have used this phrase at the
time—the festival lasted for three
Because the Pilgrims had no oven
and the Mayflower’s sugar supply
was very low by the fall of 1621, the
meal did not feature pies, cakes or
other desserts, which are features of
Several people wanted to have an
official day of thanksgiving,
including George Washington,
who proclaimed a National Day
of Thanksgiving in 1789. Several
people did not want it including
President Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson thought the
concept of Thanksgiving was
"the most ridiculous idea I’ve
Every President since
Thanksgiving Day. But
in 1939, 1940, and 1941
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thanksgiving the third
Thursday in November
to lengthen the holiday
shopping season. This
originally upset many
The North American
holiday season (generally
the Christmas shopping
season in the U.S.)
ends, on "Black Friday"
(the day after
tradition has held forth
since at least the 1930s.
Turkey is the traditional dish
for the Thanksgiving feast.
In the US, about 280 million
turkeys are sold for the
There is no official reason or
declaration for the use of
turkey. They just happened to
be the most plentiful meat
available at the time of the
first Thanksgiving in 1621,
starting the tradition.
1) Why do you think the Pilgrims left England to come live in America?
2) The friendship formed between the Wampanoag and the Colonists
remains one of the only instances of a good relationship between the
two groups. Why might the Indians have felt threatened by the
3) What is “Black Friday”? Why might some Americans want to avoid
going to the stores on this day? Also, why might some Americans want
to begin their shopping this day?
4) Which president proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the third Thursday
of every November?
5) How many days did the first thanksgiving last?