Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Short History of Thanksgiving in the New World....

Every school child learns at a young age that the Pilgrims held the 1st Thanksgiving Meal that we celebrate to this day.
But actually, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were NOT the first European settlers in the New World to hold a Thanksgiving.

There were FOUR earlier Thanksgiving celebrations on this new was held in what was to become North Carolina and three in what was to become Virginia.

#1 Took place in 1586 on Roanoke Island, NC. near present day Manteo.   This was the contingency brought to the New World by Sir Walter Raleigh to found a settlement.  These 100 men lasted about a year and after holding their meal of Thanksgiving they folded up shop and sailed home.

#2  Took place in 1609, at Jamestown, Virginia at the Jamestown Settlement.  This is the First Thanksgiving held by European immigrants at the 1st permanent settlement in the New World.  (Since the Roanoke Colony was abandoned, that earlier celebration is often discounted.)  This Thanksgiving was held after a year of near starvation.  They were thankful that they had survived the lack of food and disease and that a relief supply ship was soon to arrive.

#3  The same Jamestown Settlement held another document-able celebration in 1612, when the Colony's Governor returned with a shipload of women destined to be wives for many lucky settlers. 

#4  Another document-able Thanksgiving dinner was held in 1619 at nearby Berkley Plantation, also along the James River near Jamestown in VA.

#5  The Thanksgiving celebration at Plimouth Plantation wasn't until 1621, a full 35 yrs. after Roanoke Colony's and 12 yrs after the first Jamestown celebration.

And then there is the contingent that sees the 1st American Thanksgiving as being celebrated in St. Augustine Florida in 1565 by the Spanish explorers, long before the Pilgrims or Sir Walter Raleigh's crew or the Jamestown Colony gang.

I often think that historians pegged the Massachusetts Thanksgiving as the genesis of the Holiday due to the fact that the colony was founded by Europeans fleeing religious persecution.  And once they got here the Pilgrims began exhibiting discrimination toward anyone who wanted to practice different religious beliefs from theirs, but that's another lesson in intolerance for another time. ;-)

The VA Colony founders were farmers and merchants who took part in settling the New World for economic freedom and opportunities.   The religion stuff was not the issue for them.

Having grown up in the South, I often felt that the earlier VA based Thanksgivings were not given their due.  The way it comes off, since none of those school books I ever read as a child mentioned any of the other earlier Thanksgiving celebrations, is that only people who are religiously oppressed are worthy of being considered the 1st to give thanks.


Having grown up and sought knowledge beyond those inaccurate textbooks I have learned a more accurate history of the Holiday.

And that's without getting into the whole "There were indigenous people here long before the Europeans arrived" issue, so yah, the Holiday is way older than whatever anyone claims!

But I can safely say that the cutest first Thanksgiving celebration was this one from my youth....

No matter which date you observe as the "first" Thanksgiving Day, here's hoping your day to Give Thanks is peaceful, you have people around you that you truly care about and who care about you, and you are aware of the many awesome blessings you have.

I'm off to count by one.
Then some pie and a nap.



  1. What a great history lesson! I learned something new today. Happy Thanksgiving, Sluggy.


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