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First Thanksgiving Dinner Compared to Thanksgiving Dinner Today

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.


Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the last Thursday in November in the United States and other places around the world. The holiday is on the second Monday in October in Canada. The date changes, but the day remains the same.

Some people go to church on Thanksgiving morning. They have dinner with family and friends later in the day.

The First Thanksgiving Feast

The first Thanksgiving celebration was more of a religious celebration with prayers. The colonists gave thanks for their harvest. They were so grateful for their bounty that they were willing to share with family, friends, and neighbors. Eating was a major part of their celebration.

During the first Thanksgiving, everyone pitched in to help with the preparations. The men went hunting for the meat, and it was usually duck, goose or deer. It was not turkey. The men also went fishing for seafood. The women roasted the meat over a fire. The children helped by grinding corn into a consistency that looked like porridge or oatmeal.

Chestnuts and walnuts came from the forest. Vegetables such as squash, carrots, and peas were served as delicious side dishes.

The first Thanksgiving feast lasted from three whole days up to an entire week. So, it had to be lots of food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. People didn't sit down at a table and eat during a set time period. Instead, there was continuous eating while sitting on the ground or inside. Between eating sessions, the pilgrims and Indians played games, sang songs and danced.

The first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621

The first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621

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On the first Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie wasn't on the menu because there were no ovens for baking, but they did have boiled pumpkin.

Cranberries weren't introduced at this time, so there was no cranberry sauce. Due to the diminishing supply of flour, there was no bread or cakes of any kind.

Thanksgiving Menu Today

Food is also a very big part of today's Thanksgiving celebration. Traditional foods are definitely not the same as they were thousands of years ago.

Modern-day dinners usually consist of turkey as the centerpiece. There is stuffing, cranberry sauce, all kinds of vegetables, mashed potatoes, pumpkin or potato pie and so much more.


Today, after eating a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, some will stay home and watch football, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and the annual dog show on television.

Check out the chart below to see how the first Thanksgiving compares to modern-day Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving: Then and Now

First ThanksgivingToday's Thanksgiving



minimum 3-day celebration that could last up to a week

just one day on last Thursday in November

No leftovers

Leftover for a couple of days

Eating was done inside and outside; no sit down meal at table

Sit down meal at table

53 Pilgrims and 90 Indians.

Family and friends

Duck and goose; no turkey

Turkey is centerpiece

Seafood was plentful

Some cooks serve seafood

Cranberries hadn't been introduced

Cranberry sauce

Potatoes hadn't been introduced

Mashed potatoes or potato salad

No pies because there was no oven

Pumpkin, sweet potato and pecan pies

No bread because there was no flour

Rolls and other breads

Chestnuts and walnuts from the forest

Nuts might be missing or purchased from the grocery store

Plenty of vegetables from gardens: squash, peas, and carrots

Side dishes and casseroles

No tables

Fancy table settings

No dishes and utensils

Best dishes and utensils

Eating inside and outside

Eating inside at dining room table

No football on television because there were no televisions

Football on television, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, annual dog show

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