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10 Historical Untruths About the First Thanksgiving


The U.S. is the Only Country that Celebrates Thanksgiving

Pearly Kings and Queens celebrate their annual Harvest Festival in London, England. li Scarff/Getty Images
Pearly Kings and Queens celebrate their annual Harvest Festival in London, England. li Scarff/Getty Images


New England, Texas, Virginia...we may not all agree on where the first Thanksgiving took place, but many of us assume that Thanksgiving Day is solely an American holiday. This may be the biggest myth of them all.

The world is a big place. Its inhabitants recognize a whole host of thanksgiving-type celebrations with wide variety of foods, drinks and events reflecting their own culture and history.

As we mentioned earlier, the English settlers were familiar with the practice of celebrating a thanksgiving; in the Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxons commemorated Lammas Day, a precursor to other harvest festivals [sources: Project Britain]. Also in England, the Pearly Kings and Queens, renowned for their pearl-button bedecked outfits, celebrate the harvest with a festival, church service and parade to raise funds for charity, as they have for more than 100 years.

Canadians celebrate that country's Thanksgiving holiday on the first Monday of October, coincidentally, the same day as American Columbus Day. The Canadian version of the holiday honors a 1578 feast held by English explorer Martin Frobisher, marking the end of his journey to Newfoundland. Surprisingly, however, Newfoundland is one of a few places across the country where the holiday is not officially recognized. Those who do celebrate the day do it a lot like their U.S. neighbors: with turkey, parades and (Canadian) football [source: HUI].

Meanwhile in western Africa, Liberian Thanksgiving is a national holiday, celebrated since 1883 [source: Government of the Republic of Liberia].

Finally, on the island of Grenada, the publicly recognized Thanksgiving holiday marks the anniversary of an invasion by U.S. and Caribbean forces in 1983. Known as Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion overthrew the communist government which had recently seized power [source:].

If you aren't stuffed with new facts about Thanksgiving and American history, pass the yams and check out the links below.

Author's Note: 10 Historical Untruths About the First Thanksgiving

Assuming that the version taught is free of any of the historical mistruths that we just spent about 3,000 words debunking, the story of Thanksgiving is a valuable history lesson for those lil' Pilgrims and Indians who may not be ready to sit at the adult table just yet. But it is the celebration of the holiday that probably provides more valuable life lessons. Learning to survive a several hour ordeal, from Uncle Johnny's whiskey-fueled mysticism to Aunt June's toothless indigestion, not to mention an annual rendition of Grandpa Milt's World War II stories, is a skill that can be carried into the classroom, on the field of play and eventually as a member of the board of a Fortune 500 company.

Related Articles


  • American Indian College Fund. " The Story of Tisquantum (Squanto)." (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Armstrong, Elizabeth. "The First Thanksgiving." The Christian Science Monitor. Nov. 27, 2002 (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Gambino, Megan. "Ask an Expert: What was on the Menu at the First Thanksgiving?" Nov. 11, 2011 (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Government of the Republic of Liberia. "Vice President Boakai Joins Catholic Community in Bomi to Celebrate Thanksgiving Day." Nov. 5, 2010 (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Heinsohn, Robert Jennings. "Pilgrim Clothing." Sail 1620. (Nov. 6, 2012).
  • "Mayflower Myths." (Nov. 6, 2012).
  • Hui, Ling. "Thanksgiving Facts: 10 Things You Didn't Know About 'Turkey Day.'" Toronto Sun. Oct. 5, 2012 (Nov. 6, 2012).
  • Kingston, Mike. "The First Thanksgiving?" Texas Almanac. (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Krulwich, Robert. "First Thanksgiving Dinner: No Turkeys. No Ladies. No Pie." NPR. Nov. 23, 2011 (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Large, Jerry. "The Pilgrims At Plymouth: Not What You Think." Seattle Times. Nov. 25, 1999 (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Mach, Andrew. "A cornucopia of myths: Five things you thought you knew about Thanksgiving." The Christian Science Monitor. (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • "Invasion of Grenada." (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • National Museum of the American Indian. "Harvest Ceremony: Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth." (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Project Britain. "Facts About the Month of August." (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Perman, Cindy. "Turducken: The Triple-Threat of Thanksgiving Meat." CNBC. Nov. 24, 2010 (Nov. 6, 2012) .
  • Pilgrim Hall Museum. "King Philip's War." (Nov. 6, 2012) .
  • Plimouth Plantation. "Thanksgiving History." (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Plimouth Plantation. "Who Were the Pilgrims?" (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Scholastic. "The Thanksgiving Feast." (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Shenkman, Rick. "Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving." History News Network. Nov. 20, 2008 (Nov. 6, 2012) .
  • Walch, Timothy. "Thanksgiving Myths." (Nov. 7, 2012).
  • Walker, Lyssa. "First Thanksgiving." National Geographic Kids. (Nov. 6, 2012)


Bastille Day: The French Holiday Celebrating Peace and Revolution

Bastille Day: The French Holiday Celebrating Peace and Revolution

The July 14 holiday celebrated by the French is way more complicated than the term 'Bastille Day' might suggest. HowStuffWorks explains.