This week, schoolchildren all over America will wear black construction-paper Pilgrim hats in honor of Thanksgiving. But are they hearing the real story?
Myth: The Pilgrims were the first colonists in the New World.
Fact: The Pilgrims that we associate with Thanksgiving arrived in 1620 – 13 years after the first permanent English colony in North America was established at Jamestown, Va. In 1565, the Spanish had settled in St. Augustine, Fla., which is called "the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the United States."
Myth: Once the Pilgrims landed in the New World, they left the Mayflower behind.
Fact: The Mayflower arrived off the coast of Massachusetts on Nov. 21, 1620 (Nov. 11, according to the Julian calendar that was used at the time). That left little time to build homes before winter, so many Pilgrims lived on the ship during that first winter.
Myth: Pilgrims dressed in black and white and wore hats with buckles.
Fact: Black is a difficult color to achieve using natural dyes, the only dye source available to the Pilgrims. Those fortunate enough to have had black clothing reserved it for Sunday church services and special occasions. During the rest of the week, Pilgrims were more likely to be found in earth-toned clothing.
Myth: The Thanksgiving feast included mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
Fact: It's more likely that the feast included wild fowl such as turkey, swan, and eagles; venison and seal; vegetables such as peas, beans, and carrots; and pumpkin (perhaps stewed); and nuts. Much of the food was brought and prepared by the Indians.
– Adapted from 'Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself,' by Kris Bordessa; Nomad Press; $14.95.