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How to Recreate the First Thanksgiving

In 1621, the Pilgrims sat down with a group of Native Americans for a harvest feast -- the precursor to the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate today. Recreate the first Thanksgiving with a little historical knowledge and these tips.


  • Step 1: Get cooking Make an authentic menu: roast turkey and duck on a spit, serve peas, lettuce, radishes, carrots, and onions, and prepare pumpkin in a stew, rather than a pie. Forget the cranberry sauce, which requires more sugar than the Pilgrims had in Plymouth.
  • TIP: Cook food to taste, rather than measuring out ingredients -- values like cups and tablespoons weren't used in 17th-century recipes.
  • Step 2: Have guests Invite a lot of friends over -- the first Thanksgiving had well over 100 participants, including 90 Wampanoag Native Americans. Suggest that your guests bring food to share -- the Wampanoag brought 5 deer, as described in Mourt's Relation, Pilgrims Edward Winslow and William Bradford's account of the event.
  • Step 3: Get outside Turn off the televised football games and go play your own sports outside -- in addition to recreation like singing and dancing, the original celebrants got a lot of exercise during the first Thanksgiving.
  • Step 4: Prepare the table Set the table with spoons and knives but no forks. Instead, give everyone a large cloth napkin, which the Pilgrims used to pick up hot food as well as clean their mouths.
  • Step 5: Serve the meal Ready to eat? Don't serve separate courses. Instead, place all the food on the table at once -- including appetizers and dessert -- to recreate the colonists' serving style. Be sure to sit near the food you want -- people in the 17th century didn't pass dishes around the table; they just ate whatever happened to be closest.
  • TIP: Feel free to give thanks before the meal in any style you choose -- the Pilgrims came to the New World seeking religious and social freedom.
  • Step 6: Celebrate good times When you've finished eating, take a brief rest. Then, start the party back up for another 48 hours, recreating the length of the first Thanksgiving, which lasted for three days, and giving yourself plenty of time to enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers!
  • FACT: Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving an annual holiday in 1863.

You Will Need

  • Roast turkey and duck
  • Traditional vegetables
  • Friends
  • Venison
  • Athletic activities
  • Spoons
  • knives
  • and large napkins

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