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Thanksgiving History Your 4th Grade Teacher Never Taught You
November 2, 2020

Thanksgiving History Your 4th Grade Teacher Never Taught You

by The CE Shop Team

Did You Learn These Thanksgiving History Lessons in the 4th Grade?

As Americans, we love celebrating Turkey Day, and we love spending it with family, a nice recliner, a hefty plate of Thanksgiving dinner, and some Maryland football. But few really know about the true origins of Thanksgiving, when it took place, and if the participants even ate turkey. We were taught in school that the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 in Plymouth, MA, from which our modern holiday was born.

The story behind Thanksgiving as we know it today is that Pilgrims who ventured across the Atlantic to what is now known as Plymouth, MA struggled greatly their first year in the New World. They spent their winter aboard the Mayflower, suffering from malnutrition, contagious diseases, and scurvy. Native American tribes took pity on the starving colonists and invited them for a meal, which we now refer to as the First Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving History That You Weren’t Taught

Despite the tales we’ve been told regarding how Thanksgiving started and who was involved, there are plenty of facts that seem to be missing from our textbooks. Some history buffs argue that there have been many Thanksgiving-esque events that took place much earlier than 1621, including one in particular which occurred nearly 50 years earlier in Florida.

In that vein, Maryland hosted two celebrations dedicated to giving thanks before Thanksgiving was an established holiday. In 1698, colonial Gov. Francis Nicholson proclaimed a day of thanks in November. In 1782, another famous Marylander, John Hanson, proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be “a day of solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies.” It's important to note, however, that neither of these gratitude jamborees were annual events at the time. So, when did the First Thanksgiving take place?

The First Thanksgiving Wasn’t in 1621

Thanksgiving events were routine in settlements in what is now Virginia from as early as 1607, though there are varying claims about what should be considered the First Thanksgiving. We do know, however, that the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia held one of the largest Thanksgiving celebrations in 1610.

Florida historian Michael Gannon likes to point out that the real first Thanksgiving took place 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before Plymouth Rock. Colonists in St. Augustine shared a Thanksgiving feast with Native Americans in Florida.

“St. Augustine's settlers celebrated the nation's first Thanksgiving over a half century earlier, on September 8, 1565. Following a religious service, the Spaniards shared a communal meal with the local native tribe," said Gannon in an interview with Florida Today.

It Wasn’t Always Turkey and Stuffing

Today, turkey is the protein of choice for Thanksgiving dinners across the United States, but this wasn’t always the case. According to, Native Americans brought five deer as a gift for the Thanksgiving event held in 1621.

Along with venison, Thanksgiving feasts in the settlement era were centered around seafood like oysters and crab. These communal meals also featured fruits common to the region like blueberries, plums, grapes, and gooseberries, and vegetables like cabbage, potatoes, and corn.

Historians have pointed out that the Pilgrims did not have access to an oven, and nor did they have sufficient sugar supplies, meaning that they would have used traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. In other words, pies, cakes, and other desserts were not featured dishes in original Thanksgiving get-togethers, although we need no excuse now to top off our turkey with at least half a pumpkin pie.

Contrary to Common Belief, Football and Thanksgiving Didn’t Always Go Together

Every year during Thanksgiving, millions of Americans look forward to crashing on the couch after a hefty plate of food and watching some good ole American football. However, football hasn’t always been played on this holiday or on holidays in general.

The tradition of watching athletes toss the pigskin after we’ve tossed back a few mounds of stuffing dates back to 1934 when the Detroit Lions went head-to-head with the defending World Champion Chicago Bears. Then-coach George Richard came up with the idea to draw in more fans, signing a contract with NBC to broadcast the event. Even though the Lions lost this opening debut, the tradition didn’t stop. The Lions have played every Thanksgiving since, except between 1934 and 1944.

If you or a client are looking for easier access to football, even outside of Turkey Day, then real estate around FedEx Field is perfect for you. Housing around the stadium is cheaper than one would expect, with the average home value coming in under $290,000.

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