In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their successful harvest. At the time this celebration was not called Thanksgiving; it was English custom to celebrate and give thanks to God for the successful harvest. The first winter was rough for the Pilgrims and only 53 of them survived. Much of their success could be attributed to help from the nearby Wampanoag Indians, so it was only fitting for them to join the Pilgrims in celebrating.
The first Thanksgiving was a week-long event in which the Wampanoag Indians came and stayed with the Pilgrims. The children of both the settlers and the Indians occupied their free time playing games. It is likely the Wampanoag children taught the Pilgrim children how to play the pin game, in which the objective was to toss a ring onto a pin. They may have also played blind man's bluff, a variation of the game "tag" in which the player who is "it" is blindfolded. Games like hide-and-seek and leapfrog may have also been part of the festivities for the children.
During the week-long Thanksgiving celebration, the adult males from of both the Pilgrims and Indians competed by playing grown-up sports. One such competition consisted of the men target shooting to determine who was the best shot. Other competitions may have included log throwing and tug-o-war.
Dancing and Singing
To celebrate the harvest, both the Pilgrims and the Indians danced and sang during the celebration. Women danced the jig and sang hymns. Men practiced marching in formation and showed the Indians the "exercising of the arms," an activity in which they marched in formation and fired their muskets. The Wampanoag put on their own display of dancing and chanting for the Pilgrims.
The meal is the primary activity of the Thanksgiving holiday. During the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and Indians ate several meals. When the groups merged together, the "high table" would have consisted of the leaders from both parties. The foods served would have included meat such as deer and water fowl. Seafood would have also been served. Side dishes would have included corn porridge and dishes made of cabbage, squash and onion.
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