As kids, we’re usually told the cookie-cutter, cartoon version of the first Thanksgiving. They dress us up in what could be argued as culturally insensitive outfits and tell us about the time the Native Americans helped the poor, struggling Pilgrims plant and harvest in their new land.
And that’s sort of true, but there’s really so much more to this holiday than what they teach us in school. In fact, a lot of what we we think we know about turkey day is actually a huge lie.
1. The pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, right?
Wrong, they actually docked in nearby Provincetown, MA. Because who really wants to guide their ship through choppy winter waters into dangerous, sharp rocks?
2. Speaking of those brave pilgrims, no one actually called them that.
They weren’t given that title until 200 years later by Daniel Webster. At the time, they were simply known as separatists.
3. They weren’t very smart about packing.
Instead of helpful items like a horse or a cow or anyone who knows how to plant food, the Mayflower was full of tailors, merchants, trumpets, drums, and one guy who decided to bring 126 pairs of shoes.
4. They lost a lot of their community that first year.
Only 54 people survived that first harsh winter in their new land.
5. They weren’t really that into buckles.
The iconic imagery shows simple black-and-white garb and lots of buckles. They actually wore more green, brown, and orange fabrics and zero buckles. Those were added by artists to give them a vintage charm.
6. Pilgrims and Puritans are not the same thing.
We tend to lump the two together, but though they both hated the Church of England, pilgrims thought of it as a lost cause while the Puritans thought they could, y’know, purify it.
7. They would not have survived without Squanto.
Instead of a group of Native Americans greeting them and giving them the lay of the land, this one helpful guide, a former interpreter for John Smith, gave the settlers the help they needed.
8. The original settlers would encourage us to ignore our families.
Next time your mom nags you to play nice and talk to your cousin that you not-so-secretly hate, remind her that the original Thanksgiving was actually a community celebration, not family.
9. It also wasn’t religious.
There were other “pilgrim thanksgivings” that were done several times throughout the year which did have a spiritual aspect, but the original festival was all about having fun.
10. They didn’t have turkey at the first feast.
Well, they might have, but the “wild fowl” referred to in historical texts is more likely goose or duck. They also dined on wheat, corn, barley, and grabbed some extra main dishes from the sea — clams, mussels, lobster, and eel.
Instead, the nearby Wampanoag tribe likely heard all the revelry and stopped by to see what was up and the pilgrims then offered to include them.
12. Virigina did it first.
A group of 34 settlers arrived on a ship called Margaret and celebrated their own Thanksgiving on December 4, 1619, just a few years before the traditional pilgrim version.
13. Or, wait, maybe it was Texas?
According to them, the first Thanksgiving was actually in 1598 to celebrate the return of Juan de Oñate, an explorer, to the Rio Grande area of San Elizario.
14. We eat turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce because of Sarah Josepha Hale.
She wrote a book celebrating the original harvest festival filled with yummy recipes that they definitely did not actually eat at the time.
15. They raged on for three days.
Unlike our one-day celebration, they kept the party going for three days straight thanks to their super-bountiful harvest.
16. The tryptophan in turkey is not what’s making you sleepy.
For tryptophan to actually cause drowsiness, it would need to be ingested on a basically empty stomach and without any extra amino acids or protein. You’re feeling sleepy because, well, you just ate three meals as one.
How many did you know? Maybe you can make a game out of the new info with your family this year! Or just memorize it all to bring up and rub in their faces how much smarter you are than them. Both are fun options!