Fun Thanksgiving Facts

The pumpkin pie has been baked, so has the cornbread. I’m just waiting to start the sweet potatoes. Plain, baked. No marshmallows for me. IMO, a baked sweet potato is almost perfect as is. No turkey in the over either. We’re having steak. At least I know that will get eaten, and I won’t have a big old carcass to deal with afterwards!

While I’m waiting, I thought I’d share a few fun “facts” about Thanksgiving, or at least Thanksgiving-related.*

The First Thanksgiving
artist: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
source: Wikimedia Commons
This image is in the Public Doman in the
Unites States because its copyright has expired.
Reason for giving thanks. Most anyone who went to school in the US ought to know that the Pilgrims were giving thanks for a bountiful harvest after their first winter in America. Slightly less well-known is just how thankful they had a right to be. During that winter, more than half their number died. As astounding as that seems, I’m always surprised it wasn’t higher given that they arrived in November! I’m sure Massachusetts in November is lovely, but perhaps it wasn’t so comfortable in 1620.

Number of Pilgrims. This is not a big group. On the Mayflower, there were roughly 120 plus thirty crew.  Presumably the crew were hired and not actually Pilgrims themselves, but they were stuck in America because the whole band lived aboard ship throughout the first winter.

Reason for leaving. It’s a shame this part of the story gets left out so often because I think it is so representative of our country’s founding and what makes us so different from so many other countries. If prodded, I think most people could tell you that they left for religious reasons. Basically, they were Protestants with different beliefs than those espoused by the Church of England. What is often left out is that this “religious persecution” was more than just being taunted. They could be sentenced to death for choosing to practice their religion.

Why America? I did not know this until recently, but they actually went to Holland first. (I didn’t always pay attention in school.)  I’ve heard various reasons as to why they left Holland: they weren’t welcome, the Dutch were a bad influence on their children, or that they were at risk if Holland went to war with Spain. The last rings true to me, as I’m sure the cold Atlantic looked more inviting than the Spanish inquisitors. Why else would you make such a journey in late Autumn?

Plymouth Rock. They sailed from Plymouth, England to what is now known as Plymouth Massachusetts, but there’s no hard evidence any of them ever set foot on what is known as Plymouth Rock.

It’s also my understanding that none of the things my family is having for dinner tonight were on the menu at the first Thanksgiving feast. Their first cattle didn’t arrive until 1623, and there is no mention of potatoes, pumpkin or cornbread** either.  

Sweet potatoes had not yet been introduced to America. Thankfully, they are now, and it’s just about time to pop mine in the oven.

I wish all of you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I’m grateful to each and every one of you, but especially to those who made it this far in my post.


*Facts is in quotes because I’m not sure how much one can assume what you find on the internet is a fact anymore. Try as I might not to spread misinformation, it’s best to take everything with a grain or two of salt.

**They probably had corn, but I doubt they had the wheat necessary to turn it into anything more than a mush.

Giving credit where credit is due. Here are a couple of sites to which I have not already linked that were helpful in my research.

Why the Pilgrims Left Holland

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