What does the Mayflower have to do with Thanksgiving?

So when you think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? Pilgrims probably find a way onto that list at some point. Growing up we all learned about how the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to the  “New World” and they became friends with the Indians and had a big meal together thus the founding of Thanksgiving. Well I am positive it wasn’t all smiles and BFFs the way the story books tell it (because to the victor goes the writing of history.) And as someone who has a degree in History I thought I would share a few facts about our national day of thanks…….

The “first” Thanksgiving in 1621 was never called Thanksgiving (which was a term the Pilgrims would have used for a religious holiday.) In fact it was a harvest celebration and it only occurred that one year!!! So the “first” Thanksgiving actually did not set a tradition in this country at all. Okay, before your gasp and get upset, the first reoccurring “Thanksgiving” was adopted by New York State in 1817 and many states followed the custom. It wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln declared “Thanksgiving” an annual holiday to be celebrated the last Thursday in November. Why the last Thursday of November?? Possible because the Pilgrims anchored the Mayflower at Cape Cod on November 21, 1621. But then along comes FDR who moves it to the fourth Thursday of the month, which congress agreed to in 1941 and thus the birth of the modern day Thanksgiving. Confused yet!?!?! Don’t be……

Because what really matters about Thanksgiving is not who did what to who, when or where. Because honestly, at least to me, that meal the Pilgrims and Indians had, really has nothing to do with our modern day celebration of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about being with family and friends and appreciating all the wonderful things in our lives. And while history is something everyone should know (or you’re domed to repeat it they say) each and everyone of us can celebrate it in our own ways. We can put on silly paper Pilgrim hats and eat foods they never would have had. We can make crafts and enjoy ourselves, even thought trust me the poor Pilgrims were stuck on the Mayflower a LOOOOONG time before they made a settlement and they were NOT having fun in the bowels of that boat! You can incorporate what ever family tradition YOU want to, to give that day meaning.

So enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie, grab some paints and let your children make their very own Mayflower if you like. Simply grab a blue sheet of construction paper, paint their hand brown and you have the start of the ship. Cut out some white sails to glue on and add your own creative touches. Because in the end….. For good or bad, the Mayflower did kind of start it all by just showing up! LOL

16 thoughts on “What does the Mayflower have to do with Thanksgiving?

  1. Yes when I think of the friendly puritans eating with the indians I think- did they add some smallpox to the vittles?

  2. lovely blog! I invite you to link up your blog in our blog hop-link party. We are hosting for the first time and want to know bloggers from all around! Hope to see you there! http://www.thefamilyfunspot.com/2013/11/bloggers-unidas-1.html

  3. I am from New England and I descend from 9 Mayflower passengers, just on my mother's side, and carry the Hopkins surname from my father's. Whether or not everything was hunky-dory with the Native Americans in the area, I am a firm believer that many thanks were given to God after that first harvest by those remaining survivors of the first winter. Many people do not know that three-fourths of the women who crossed over on the Mayflower died that first winter – it must have been more brutal than any of us could possibly comprehend.

  4. What a great sentimental Thanksgiving craft. I will definitely be doing this with my kids! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow, talk about perfect timing! Thanks so much for sharing this on Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop. 🙂 I am a first-year preschool teacher and will be teaching my little students about Thanksgiving. This post is helping me to brush up on the details!

  6. Thank you for setting us straight on the history of Thanksgiving. I am so glad you shared this post on Make It Monday.

    1. I don't mean to set anyone straight. But I get so tired of "oh the pilgrims" and how glorious it all was. It was not a walk in the park! LOL

  7. I always love the rosy picture we have been taught about Thanksgiving. BUt, I've read several books about the settling of New England and of course it wasn't all love and turkey. The part that confuses me the most is this 4th Thursday of November thing. I think it's completely bizarre. Why can't we just say the last Thursday of November or , better yet, let's pick a number and keep it on that date every year, regardless of which Thursday of the month it is. I think it's so odd that we don't have the same date every year!

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