The First Thanksgiving

As we gather for Thanksgiving here is some information from a history professor- Robert McKenzie at Wheaton College who has written about the first Thanksgiving.  He debunks several myths we have about the Pilgrim celebration, starting with what people wore. 

Most of us imagine that the Pilgrims were grim and always dressed in black. Edward Winslow left an account of the first Thanksgiving that presents a different picture. He describes a scene of beer and barbecue, sports and shooting. Pilgrim Colony inventories include garments that were red, blue, green, yellow and orange. Carpenter Will Wright died leaving a blue coat and two colorful vests in red and white. William Bradford had a black suit but also a “colored hat”, a red suit and a violet cloak. 

Most of us think the Pilgrims’ 1621 harvest celebration was the first American Thanksgiving. But, the Algonquin people had a regular ceremony linked to the crop cycle. Our local Wampanoag celebrated the first harvest of a new season with a “strawberry thanksgiving.”

The French Hugenots are believed to have held a thanksgiving service in 1564 in Florida near what is now Jacksonville. Spanish literature mentions a thanksgiving in St. Augustine in 1565. In El Paso in 1598 the Manso Indians had a thanksgiving with Spanish colonists; another one happened In 1607 at a colony on the coast of Maine. And in Virginia, thanksgiving was celebrated in 1610 and 1619. 

What interests me about this archeological and historical evidence is how it reminds us that people have gathered in gratitude across this land for over 500 years.I like the idea that when gather to give thanks we stand on the shoulders of so many generations of people of so many races and backgrounds.


Rev. Susan


This Sunday we are going to offer a light lunch after worship, and we are showing a Ric Burns documentary from PBS American Experiences called “The Pilgrims.” I hope you will join us. 

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