A Pilgrim Voyage

Thanksgiving Day

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Thanksgiving Day

See the story of the Mayflower's passage and the Pilgrims' first year in the New World. Learn about the Wompanoag Indian tribe and a game they may have played during the first harvest celebration—Thanksgiving. Learn many different ways that Americans celebrate this important day.

Thanksgiving Day was ordered by George Washington to celebrate the feast the Pilgrims iin 1621 they held after surviving their first year in the New World. Now it is a national holiday meant for spending time with family and friends.

  1. Students will know the history surrounding the first Thanksgiving.
    1. A group of Europeans left England on September 6, 1620, and landed on the coast of Massachusetts on November 11 of the same year. One reason for leaving was that they wanted religious freedom.
    2. The name of their ship was the Mayflower. There were 102 passengers (34 of them children) and a crew of 26 men.
    3. They had planned to sail to Jamestown, Virginia, but a storm carried them off course to a place they called Plymouth Rock.
    4. After landing, they worked hard to clear land, build homes, and plant crops for food. The weather was harsh during the first winter, and half of them died because of sickness or lack of food.
    5. In the spring, an Indian named Squanto from the Wampanoag tribe helped them grow crops such as corn and barley. The Indians also taught them how to hunt and fish. Without the help of the Indians, the Pilgrims might not have survived.
    6. In the fall, the harvest was a success, and they had plenty of food to get through the winter.
    7. In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims held a celebration to give thanks to God and to the Indians for the harvest. They had a large feast and ate wild turkey, corn bread, boiled carrots, turnips, beans, corn, pumpkins, lobster, clams, oysters, fish, geese, duck, and venison. There were about 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag that attended the celebration, including Chief Massasoit. The celebration lasted for 3 days, in which there was much feasting, many games, and prayer.
  2. Students will understand why Thanksgiving is so important. It gives people a chance to be thankful for the freedoms and other good things they have in this country, and it is a time to spend with family and friends.
  3. Students will know about the history of Thanksgiving as a holiday.
    1. In 1789, George Washington proclaimed November 26 as a national day to give thanks.
    2. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving.
    3. In 1941, Congress established Thanksgiving as it is now-the fourth Thursday in November.
  4. Students will know how Thanksgiving is celebrated today.
    1. It is a legal holiday throughout the 50 states. Schools, banks, and government offices are closed.
    2. Many large cities hold parades on Thanksgiving.
    3. There are professional and college football games, and many families and friends gather together for their own backyard games.
    4. Some people attend Thanksgiving services.
    5. Many families and friends gather and celebrate by having a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner that includes turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, beans, yams, and pumpkin pies.
  5. Students will realize that symbols of Thanksgiving Day include Pilgrims and Native Americans, turkeys, and harvest vegetables and fruits in a cornucopia (horn of plenty).

  1. Provide each student with supplies to make a Thanksgiving card. Have them draw or color a design for the front of the card. On the inside, they should write a note to a friend or family member, telling why they are thankful for that person. Have the students deliver their cards on Thanksgiving Day. (If this is not possible, they could deliver them just before Thanksgiving or send them in the mail.) Also encourage them to do something nice for the person. When they come back to school after the holiday, have them share anything special that happened.
  2. Have a discussion on the diverse ways people celebrate Thanksgiving. To help illustrate the point, ask the students to share what they do with their families on Thanksgiving. See how many different activities are represented by the students in the class.
  3. Make a grab bag with small pieces of paper in it. On each piece of paper, write something for which we should be thankful. Also make a few that just have the word "Thanksgiving" on them. Have each student grab a piece of paper and then describe why we should be thankful for the item he/she picked. The students that get the sheets that say "Thanksgiving" should pick something they're thankful for (that hasn't been mentioned yet) and tell why they are thankful for it.
  4. One of the best ways to gain a better appreciation for something is to realize what life would be like without it. Explain to the students that people in some countries live without many of the luxuries and privileges we take for granted (e.g., a place to live, daily food, nice toys to play with, etc.) If possible, reinforce this with pictures or real-life accounts of people who live without some of these things.


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