New Discovery Shows The First Thanksgiving Was Probably A Lot Different Than You Think

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Many people’s childhood lessons have taken a beating over the last few years. Pluto is not a planet. The earth has three moons — two of them made of dust and almost impossible to see. An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, and milk does not necessarily do the body good. Benedict Arnold may not have been such a bad guy after all.

Things are not always true in the way that they are taught to us as children. Now, it turns out that everything we thought we knew about Thanksgiving was wrong as well. National Geographic breaks the news to their audience in a recent article.

“These signs of a communal sensibility were common to religious groups in England at the time, said James Horn, a historian and president of Jamestown Rediscovery, who is not involved in the Berkeley dig. ‘They are Anglicans, not Pilgrims, but they have a similar tenor’… The men likely knelt on the cold ground by the shore. So far as can be known, there was no feast and no Native Americans were present. In fact, under Anglican tradition, they may have fasted rather than feasted.”

U.K. archaeologist Mark Horton believes that he might have found his “needle in a haystack” — physical evidence of the first Thanksgiving which took place “five hundred miles south of Plymouth Rock and nearly two years earlier.”

A re-enactment of the First Thanksgiving.
  Anneka / shutterstock

There has been a long and storied debate over the location of the first Thanksgiving, centered over whether it took place in Massachusetts or Virginia. Kennedy acknowledged Virginia’s claim to Thanksgiving before he died. But neither state is the first to have a celebration of Thanksgiving by feast. The Spaniards were doing it before the English found their way to these shores.

Close followers of the tradition likely realize that the modern celebration has little to do with the facts of history. Even at Plymouth Rock, things were not as we imagine. Turkey could have referred to any wild fowl. There would have been no pumpkin pie, as their flour would have been used up. Forget about those hot, buttered rolls, as settlers had no dairy products, either. Many Europeans thought potatoes were poisonous, so scratch that off the list as well.

Better yet, put everything back on the list — and invite all of your friends and family. All holidays and traditions have been heavily modified to suit the times. We are lucky we still have any of the historic facts. Thanksgiving is not about the first Pilgrims — or Anglicans — it is about who we are right now, and all we have to be thankful for.