Home School Years

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The First (Shared) Thanksgiving

Related Posts:

thanksgivingThanksgiving Crafts

The First North Americans

13 Colonies: A New World

Recommended Books:

  • Thanksgiving Is… by Gail Gibbons
  • Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration by Jackie French Koller
  • Oh, What A Thanksgiving! by Steven Kroll
  • Give Thanks To The Lord by Karma Wilson
  • The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing
  • One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by Barbara G. Hennessy
  • Round the Turkey: A Grateful Thanksgiving by Leslie Kimmelman
  • The Berenstain Bears’ Thanksgiving Blessings by Mike Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears’ Thanksgiving All Around by Mike Berenstain
  • Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
  • Gobble: The Complete Book Of Thanksgiving Words by Lynda Graham-Barber
  • Thanksgiving On Thursday (Magic Tree House series) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Pilgrims (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne and Will Osborne
  • Who Were The First North Americans? (Usborne Starting Point History) by Philippa Wingate & Struan Reid
  • Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation (Time-Traveling Twins series) by Diane Stanley

Understanding The Holiday’s History:

The first Thanksgiving is a term given to the gathering between European settlers and Wampanoag people (Native Americans of the local area) in Autumn of 1621, where they shared a meal and gave thanks for a successful harvest. It is important to understand that giving thanks was a common practice by both the Natives/Indigenous people of America and European settlers in their own, separate and established cultural life, so when they gathered together, it was actually the first time they shared a thanksgiving meal as a symbolic gesture of friendship and gratitude. To learn more about the lesser known Natives’ harvest thanksgiving practice and celebration, read Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration by Jackie French Koller.

Pilgrim is a general term used to describe a settler from Plimoth (also spelled Plymouth). The term actually refers to a person who travels for religious reasons (goes on a pilgrimage). Settlers who came from Europe were considered colonists (those looking to expand the land and rule of the English crown); separatists (those who separated away from the Church of England and were looking for a new home where they could worship their beliefs without persecution) or puritans (those who had not separated from the Church of England but were looking to establish a purified version of their beliefs in a new land). Over time, all groups have been grouped together under the term pilgrim or settler.

It was customary for Europeans to hold days of prayer and a feast for giving thanks every Autumn during harvest time as part of their religious practice. When they arrived in Plimoth in 1620, it was already November so they didn’t have much time to settle and get ready for winter. That first winter was especially difficult and many of the settlers died. When the following Spring arrived, a Native American from the Wampanoag people named Samoset approached the settlers and offered his help. A few days later, he returned with his friend Tisquantum (better known as Squanto) who spoke better English. Together, they encouraged other Wampanoag people to help the remaining settlers prepare for life in their new homeland. Their efforts paid off. The next harvest season was very successful and the settlers managed to build enough houses to secure better conditions in order to survive the coming winter. As a way to thank their new friends for their help, the settlers invited the Natives to share a meal and celebrate a giving of thanks together. Both groups of people brought food items to the gathering. Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November to commemorate that first shared thanksgiving gathering.


Discuss facts about the First Thanksgiving, such as:

  • About 50 settlers and 90 natives attended
  • The meal consisted mostly of venison (deer), wild fowl, corn porridge and mashed pumpkin. It would have been too cold to have other foods (fruits, vegetables and fish) as they were out of season at the time of the gathering.
  • The feast was part of a harvest gathering/celebration and not because it was a holiday (President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863)

Imagine you are in Plymouth 1621 and came across a gathering between settlers and natives. They are trying to put together a Thanksgiving celebration but they seem confused and can’t quite remember how to do it. You offer to help by teaching them how to celebrate it.

  • Draw a picture of a Thanksgiving scene or make a list of things you’ll need ~ table, chairs, dinnerware, food and drink, people dressed in their typical clothing, etc.
  • Write a sentence or two to explain the reason for the gathering is to give thanks to God and each other. Do you have a specific prayer you can share with them?
  • Using this form write what you are thankful for.

The Giving of Thanks ~ teach a lesson on the importance of gratitude.

Writing: Turkey Plea

Thanksgiving Fun:

  1. Why did the turkey not finish his dessert? Because he was stuffed!
  2. If April showers bring May flowers, then what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims!
  3. When the pilgrims landed, where did they stand? On their feet!
  4. What kind of music did pilgrims like? Plymouth Rock!
  5. Where does Christmas come before Thanksgiving? In the dictionary!


Collection of Thanksgiving craft ideas

Related Resources:


thanksgiving = Accion de Gracias


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