A cornucopia of myths: Five things you thought you knew about Thanksgiving

Since the first Thanksgiving occurred, reportedly in 1621, historians and pop culture have spread a cornucopia of tall tales, half truths, and straight-up lies. Here, we correct those myths. 

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4. The Pilgrims held the first American Thanksgiving

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    This oil painting, painted by Jennie A. Brownscombe in 1914, depicts Pilgrims celebrating their first Thanksgiving with native American Indians at Plymouth in 1621.
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Depends on whom you ask.

The Pilgrims may very well have held the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but that’s not universally agreed upon. Some Texans, for instance, claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place 23 years before the Pilgrims’ celebration in 1598 in San Elizario, a small town near El Paso. This feast was supposedly held for Spanish explorer Juan de Onate who, after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert, arrived on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Some at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia, on the other hand, claim the first Thanksgiving in America was held there on Dec. 4, 1619 – two years before the Pilgrims’ festival – for 38 English settlers who arrived in America earlier that year. They claim the settlers had been ordered by the London Company to commemorate their arrival with an annual day of thanksgiving – an order that President John F. Kennedy in 1963 officially recognized when he named the Berkeley Plantation and Virginia the site of the First Thanksgiving in America.

Regardless, individuals in both Texas and Virginia reenact the “first” Thanksgiving every year.

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