Everybody loves Thanksgiving. It is a valued holiday that is unique to every family. There are, of course, common traditions associated with the holiday such as feasting on turkey, but most families try to add unique elements to make the holiday intimate and personal. Although Americans have celebrated this holiday for hundreds of years, many don’t fully understand the history of Thanksgiving, which has led to the development of certain myths surrounding the holiday. The reason there are myths that don’t even come close to the truth is that Thanksgiving is an invented tradition that does not particularly stem from one event.
The mish-mash of different elements was gathered over the years to form the tradition that people understand as Thanksgiving today. To break the monotony of conversation at your next Thanksgiving table, here are five facts about Thanksgiving that everyone thinks are true but aren’t:
The Pilgrims and the American Indians Were Best Friends
The Indians (Wampanoag) and Pilgrims in Massachusetts were anything but friends. Soon after they settled in Plymouth, the Pilgrims raided dwellings and the cornfields belonging to the Indians and took whatever they wanted. Although the first pictures of Thanksgiving paint a happy picture, the account was quite different.
The Pilgrims First Arrived at Plymouth Rock
The pilgrims actually made landfall for the first time on Cape Cod close to what is known today as Provincetown. The Pilgrims were welcomed by a tribe of Native Americans and they supplied them with food and shelter. Plymouth Rock refers to the mass grave site where the helpful natives were buried after the colonists enslaved and infected them with smallpox.
Thanksgiving Is Usually on the Final Thursday of November
Thanksgiving did not start being held on the last Thursday of November until President Lincoln designated it in 1863. The decision was overturned for a short time in 1939 while President Roosevelt was in power as a way of extending the shopping season by a week, but President Lincoln’s initial designation was reinstated in 1941.
Native Americans and Pilgrims United to Celebrate
In 1621, while the Pilgrims were celebrating their successful harvest, they were shooting guns and cannons in the air. The Wampanoag chief and 90 of his warriors arrived at the settlement in response to the gunfire ready to fight. Instead, they were invited to the feast, so the Native Americans actually crashed the party.
Turkey Was Eaten at the First Thanksgiving
Based on numerous historical accounts, there is no proof to suggest that Turkey was eaten at the 1621 meal. However, the Pilgrims may have enjoyed some sort of wildfowl, which was most likely duck or goose. The growing of sweet potatoes had not yet begun so the other dishes that may have been included are Indian corn, venison, and perhaps pumpkin.