"The reason that we have so
many myths associated with Thanksgiving is that it is an
invented tradition. It doesn't originate in any one
event. It is based on the New England puritan
Thanksgiving, which is a religious Thanksgiving, and the
traditional harvest celebrations of England and New
England and maybe other ideas like commemorating the
pilgrims. All of these have been gathered together and
transformed into something different from the original
- James W. Baker, Senior Historian at Plimoth
MYTH: The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the pilgrims
celebrated it every year thereafter.
FACT: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it
wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, the
colonists didn't even call the day Thanksgiving. To them,
a thanksgiving was a religious holiday in which they
would go to church and thank God for a specific event,
such as the winning of a battle. On such a religious day,
the types of recreational activities that the pilgrims
and Wampanoag Indians participated in during the 1621
harvest feast--dancing, singing secular songs, playing
games--wouldn't have been allowed. The feast was a
secular celebration, so it never would have been
considered a thanksgiving in the pilgrims minds.
MYTH: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on
the fourth Thursday of November.
FACT: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime
between September 21 and November 11. Unlike our modern
holiday, it was three days long. The event was based on
English harvest festivals, which traditionally occurred
around the 29th of September. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth
Thursday of November in 1939 (approved by Congress in
1941). Abraham Lincoln had previously designated it as
the last Thursday in November, which may have correlated
it with the November 21, 1621, anchoring of the Mayflower
at Cape Cod.
MYTH: The pilgrims wore only black and white clothing.
They had buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
FACT: Buckles did not come into fashion until
later in the seventeenth century and black and white were
commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions. Women
typically dressed in red, earthy green, brown, blue,
violet, and gray, while men wore clothing in white,
beige, black, earthy green, and brown.
MYTH: The pilgrims brought furniture with them on the Mayflower.
FACT: The only furniture that the pilgrims brought
on the Mayflower was chests and boxes. They
constructed wooden furniture once they settled in
MYTH: The Mayflower was headed for
Virginia, but due to a navigational mistake it ended up
in Cape Cod Massachusetts.
FACT: The Pilgrims were in fact planning to settle
in Virginia, but not the modern-day state of Virginia.
They were part of the Virginia Company, which had the
rights to most of the eastern seaboard of the U.S. The
pilgrims had intended to go to the Hudson River region in
New York State, which would have been considered
"Northern Virginia," but they landed in Cape
Cod instead. Treacherous seas prevented them from
venturing further south.