Almost 400 years ago in 1620, there were several families who wanted to have a better life for themselves and their children. So they got on a big boat called The Mayflower and those families sailed across the large Atlantic Ocean from England to America.
These families were called The Pilgrims and they had a very rough trip that lasted for several months. They lived in tiny rooms on The Mayflower and the food was not that good. During storms the boat rocked up and down and rolled from side to side and it was hard to stand up and move around without falling down.
Two of the families traveling on The Mayflower were the Tilleys and the Howlands. Elizabeth Tilley and John Howland loved each other very much and were looking forward to getting married once they had reached America.
One time during this long voyage, John Howland slipped off the deck of The Mayflower, fell into the ocean and almost drowned. But he was quickly rescued and everybody was happy about that, especially Elizabeth Tilley.
When The Mayflower landed in America, the Pilgrims named that landing spot “Plymouth Rock” after their former hometown, Plymouth, England.
Because the trip across the Atlantic Ocean took so long, it was very late in the year and the winter snows and cold weather would begin soon. So the Pilgrims had to hurry and cut down enough trees to make into logs to make the 4 walls and the roofs of the little houses that they called log cabins.
At that time in early America, there were no cities or towns anywhere, only deep forests and big meadows. There were no houses or buildings of any kind, and there were no roads or grocery stores.
It was too late in the year to plant wheat to make into bread, or to plant potatoes and other foods. So the Pilgrims had to gather as many nuts and fruits as they could find.
The Pilgrims also tried to quickly catch as many fish as they could from the nearby rivers and lakes too. They also hunted turkeys and deer but that first winter in America started very early and so they didn’t have a lot of food stored and preserved to eat during those long winter months.
That first winter some of the Pilgrims died because they didn’t have enough food to eat or enough firewood or blankets to keep themselves warm and their deaths made the remaining families very sad.
But when the warmer months of springtime began, several groups of people called Indians came to visit the Pilgrims. The Indians had lived in America for a very long time before the Pilgrims arrived and they looked and spoke differently from the Pilgrims.
And because the Indians and the Pilgrims spoke different languages, it was hard for them to understand each other at first but the Indians and the Pilgrims soon became good friends.
The Indians were very kind to the Pilgrims and they taught them different hunting and fishing skills so that they could get more food. They also showed them how to plant seeds for new delicious foods they’d never had before, like pumpkin and corn.
The Indians even showed the Pilgrims how to grow a new type of corn that puffed up all white and tasty when heated in their fireplaces. It was called popcorn and it was just as yummy then as the popcorn we eat today.
So after that first successful harvest, the Pilgrims gave a big party with their new Indian friends as their guests. The Pilgrims wanted to thank them for all of their helpful advice and for their friendship.
Americans still celebrate Thanksgiving now by sharing good food with our families and friends.
It is also especially important for us to always remember that we wouldn’t be here today if there hadn’t been that very first Thanksgiving with our long-ago Indian and Pilgrim ancestors.
Ava, Evvie, Charlotte and their daddy, Justin, are descended from the Iroquois Indians and their ancestors may have been some of the Indians who had greatly helped the Pilgrims.
Great-Nana, Nana, Tara, Evvie and Charlotte, are all directly descended from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, who were part of the original Pilgrims.
So every Thanksgiving we remember and honor our long-ago relatives by telling this story of that very first Thanksgiving between our Indian and Pilgrim ancestors.
First written and read by Jeneane Behme (Nana) for our November 28, 2013 Thanksgiving dinner. This is dedicated to Jeneane’s mother, Great-Nana (Margaret Louise Pillen Behme); her daughter, Tara Behme; Justin Ryder (father to his daughter, Ava Nicole Ryder) and to Justin’s children with Tara: Evvie Ryder (Evelyn Ambrielle) and Charlotte Louise Ryder (who will be born in a few months in February 2014).
Thanksgiving 2013 was held at Nana’s apartment in Bay City, MI on November 28, which was also Nana’s birthday.
We enjoyed artichoke and spinach dip, deviled eggs and almond shredded chicken and capers dip with Ritz and Triscuit crackers for our appetizers. Then for Thanksgiving dinner we had Tara’s special roast turkey with herb butter, ham with pineapple and brown sugar glaze, garlic mashed potatoes, turkey pan gravy, home-made onion bread, green bean casserole, cranberry and Jello salad, mushroom dressing, pumpkin cake, cheesecake (for Nana’s birthday) and cookies and cream pie. Yummy!