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It Wasn’t Always Turkey Day; Here Are the Major Highlights of the First Thanksgiving Dinner in America

Every fourth Thursday of November, American families gather to have Thanksgiving dinner. This national holiday is observed yearly to celebrate the Native Americans and the early settlers who came together for a historic feast. But that feast wasn’t so much like the Thanksgiving dinner we have these days. What did they eat on the first Thanksgiving? What was the purpose of the feast? This article will answer these questions.

Who were the participants, and what did the feast signify?

The people of the Wampanoag tribe were the first inhabitants of America; they lived in the land for over 12,000 years. Also called the native Americans, these American Indians had fished and hunted in the land for a long time.

In 1620, European settlers arrived in the area now known as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Members of the native tribe found the settlers and helped them plant corn and other things. It is believed that the first dinner between the two groups was to form a new alliance.

What was on the menu?

Turkey didn’t headline that historical dinner. Although it was a hearty, celebratory meal, the dinner that happened about 400 years ago didn’t contain much of what Thanksgiving dinner contains today.

Although there were ducks, wild turkeys, geese, fish, and fowl, venison was the main menu. History has it that the leader of the Wampanoag people, Massasoit, donated five deer to the dinner. 

How many people attended, and what activities did they engage in?

The first dinner, which happened in 1621 between the native tribes of America and the pilgrims, had more people in attendance than the family dinners we organize today. Think of them as a very large family.

While we don’t know exactly how many people went to the dinner, history tells us over 90 native Americans and 50 settlers attended. Aside from eating, the attendees danced and played games. They held the dinner after the settlers had their first harvest.

How long did the dinner last?

What’s the longest duration of Thanksgiving dinner you’ve ever experienced? An hour? We bet that even with the most intriguing family dramas, no Thanksgiving dinner can last for three hours. Well, this dinner is out of that league.

Courtesy: The US Sun

The 1621 dinner lasted for three days! Since it took a two-day trip for some of the native people to get to the venue, the attendees probably had to stay a while before returning.

Was it always ‘Thanksgiving’?

The feast commemorated the cooperation of two groups of people. However, it wasn’t called Thanksgiving. Although prayers were probably offered, it wasn’t until two years after that prayers appeared in the records (they thanked God for rain after a 2-month drought).


In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared two Thanksgiving days (one in August and the other in November); the second is what we celebrate today. Today, the Native people see Thanksgiving Day as a reminder of their ancestors’ strength.

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