As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us look forward to the joyous traditions of gathering with loved ones, sharing a delicious meal, and expressing gratitude for the blessings in our lives. In this article, let's explore some common myths surrounding Thanksgiving, setting the record straight and enhancing our appreciation for this time-honored celebration.

The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving:

Myth: The popular narrative often suggests that the Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down for a formal, harmonious feast to celebrate the Pilgrims' first successful harvest in 1621.

Reality: While there was a feast that celebrated the harvest, the historical details are not as clear-cut. The Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians likely shared food, but the event was more of a communal gathering than a structured Thanksgiving feast as we envision it today.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, oil on canvas, by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914

Thanksgiving Turkey as the Main Course:

Myth: Turkey has always been the centerpiece of Thanksgiving feasts since the Pilgrims' time.

Reality: While turkey is a staple of modern Thanksgiving dinners, historical records suggest that the Pilgrims and Native Americans might have had other meats such as venison, waterfowl, and seafood. Turkey became a symbol of Thanksgiving much later in American history.

Thanksgiving's Fixed Date:

Myth: Thanksgiving has always been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Reality: Thanksgiving was initially celebrated on various dates. President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, setting it on the final Thursday of November. In 1941, it was officially moved to the fourth Thursday to provide a longer shopping period before Christmas during the Great Depression.

Football and Thanksgiving:

Myth: Football has always been a central part of Thanksgiving celebrations.

Reality: While football has become synonymous with Thanksgiving for many families, the tradition of Thanksgiving Day football games began much later, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, it's a beloved part of the holiday for many sports enthusiasts.

Leon Lett's ill-advised blocked field goal recovery attempt gave the Dolphins an icy Thanksgiving win in 1993. Star-Telegram via AP


As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it's valuable to demystify some common misconceptions surrounding this cherished holiday. While the details of the first Thanksgiving may be less straightforward than we've been led to believe, the essence of the holiday remains a time to come together, express gratitude, and appreciate the blessings in our lives. Understanding the historical context and evolution of Thanksgiving enriches our appreciation for the traditions that make this holiday so special.