is the oldest and most truly American of all our holidays. It has
changed less in tradition and intention than any of our celebrations.
Americans still use the annual rite of Thanksgiving to worship
together, share food, and renew themselves in thoughtful reflection.
Yet the holiday has had a colorful, romantic and sometimes
controversial history. Try this Thanksgiving quiz to test your
expertise. Beware: You may be labeled a turkey!
John L. Oldani
What group of people held what was considered the "first"
Thanksgiving in America?
Name the ship which carried the first settlers who celebrated the
first Thanksgiving in America.
Who was the first president to issue an "official"
Thanksgiving Day proclamation?
In what year was the first American Thanksgiving held?
Who was the governor of the Plymouth Colony during the first
What weather conditions caused the Pilgrims to decide to have a day of
History tells us that this Indian "saved" the early American
colonists by teaching them farming and hunting techniques. Who
This president called Thanksgiving a "monarchical practice"
and did not issue a Thanksgiving Day proclamation during his entire
eight years in office. Who was he?
One president created a national controversy by declaring that
Thanksgiving was to be changed to the third Thursday in November while
in office. Who was this president?
A joint resolution of Congress declared that the American Thanksgiving
would always be on the fourth Thursday of November. In which
year did Congress make this decision?
In 1846, this lady began a personal, intensive Campaign to get
Thanksgiving declared a national holiday annually by each president.
Who was this editor of Godey's Lady's Book?
What president finally agreed with the lady discussed above?
Extant records make no mention of these two traditional foods being
served at the first Thanksgiving. Name the foods.
Tradition tells us that the Indians provided this food for the first
Thanksgiving. What was it?
This chief of the Wampanoag tribe was invited to the first
Thanksgiving. Who was he?
At the first Thanksgiving, games and contests were held. The
Captain of the Plymouth colony militia demonstrated his shooting
skills for the Indians. Who was this captain?
What famous colonial American lobbied long and hard to have the turkey
declared our national bird?
Our earliest American-English settlers were aware of this English
Thanksgiving celebration. What was it called in England?
Which department store organized the first toy parade on Thanksgiving
Day in 1920?
Indian pudding was served at the first Thanksgiving. What are
the main ingredients in the dish?
How long did the first Thanksgiving celebration last?
L Oldani; Ph.D. is a former professor of folklore and currently
lectures widely on the subjects of American folklore.
George Washington on Nov. 26, 1789
A drought for which a time of fasting and prayer were decreed and
which ended in a “mild, gentle and thorough rain which saved
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Sarah Josepha Hale
In 1863, Lincoln agreed
Pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce
The Harvest home
Gimbel's Department Store
Cornmeal and molasses
correct: A bona-fide American! Right off the Mayflower!
correct: You've at least visited Plymouth Rock!
correct: You probably hate pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce!
correct: What else? A real turkey!
First Thanksgiving with Real Pilgrim Fathers: Bradford and Winslow
came in answer to the Pilgrims’ time of fasting and prayer when
their gardens were dieing from the drought and, as Governor Bradford
wrote in his history of our founding, Of Plimouth Plantation, their
staple food, corn, “was withering away.” Below you can read
Bradford’s report from his manuscript telling how God answered their
prayers and they later were able to enjoy a real time of feasting with
their neighbors, the “Indeans,” who invited themselves but were
warmly welcomed as you will see from the second paragraph, an excerpt
from another publication. As to their answer to prayer:
Rain! We read:
came ...without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by
degrees in that abundance, as that the earth was thoroughly wet and
soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken
the decayed corn & other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made
the Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them
such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather, as,
through his blessing, caused a fruitful & liberal harvest, to
their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy (in time
convenient) they also set apart a day of thanksgiving. This
being overslipt in its place, I thought meet here to insert the same.
Bradford’s description of their harvest that brought about the above
celebration is also beautiful to read:
began now to gather in the small harvest they had and to fit up their
houses and wellings against winter, being all well recovered in health
and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were
thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing,
about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of
which every family had their portion. All the summer there was
no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached,
of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward
decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of
wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.
Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since
harvest, Indian corm to that proportion, which made many afterwards
write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England,
which were not feigned but true reports.2
follow this with a description of the festivities written by another
Pilgrim, Edward Winslow.
harvest being gotten, our governor (Bradford, ed.) sent four men on
fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together
after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one
day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the
company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations,
we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and
among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men,
whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and
killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed
on our governor, and upon the captain and others.3
although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us,
that by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often
wish you partakers of our plenty. We have found the Indians very
faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving, and ready to
pleasure us. We often go to them, and they come to us.
Some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them, the
occasions and relations whereof you shall understand by our general
and more full declaration of such things as are worth the noting.4
will discover a treasure house of jewels in regard to our county’s
founding in The Governor’s Story
and other books
just follow the links.
The above article and quiz by Prof. Oldani was published in a local
newspaper some years ago. It has been edited and posted for the
Rebuilders’ web site by the owner for your enjoyment. I hope
you’ll use it for this celebration of the 378th anniversary of the
Pilgrims’ and the Indians’ Thanksgiving in 1621 (Winslow’s
Bradford, Governor William, Of
Plymouth Plantation, from Samuel Eliot Morison’s edition, Alfed
A. Knopf, publishers, 1952, p. 90.
Edward Winslow’s letter of 11 Dec.
1621 to a friend in England describing this “First Thanksgiving”
is printed in Mourt’s Relations, pp. 60-65).
Mourt’s Relations, p. 72.
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