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Thanksgiving Day



Thanksgiving is the oldest and most truly American of all our holidays.  It has changed less in tradition and intention than any of our celebrations.  Americans still use the annual rite of Thanksgiving to worship together, share food, and renew themselves in thoughtful reflection.  Yet the holiday has had a colorful, romantic and sometimes controversial history.  Try this Thanksgiving quiz to test your expertise. Beware:  You may be labeled a turkey!



Test Your Turkey IQ

by John L. Oldani


1.  What group of people held what was considered the "first" Thanksgiving in America?

2.  Name the ship which carried the first settlers who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in America.

3.  Who was the first president to issue an "official" Thanksgiving Day proclamation?

4.  In what year was the first American Thanksgiving held?

5.  Who was the governor of the Plymouth Colony during the first Thanksgiving?

6.  What weather conditions caused the Pilgrims to decide to have a day of Thanksgiving?

7.  History tells us that this Indian "saved" the early American colonists by teaching them farming and hunting techniques.  Who was he?

8.  This president called Thanksgiving a "monarchical practice" and did not issue a Thanksgiving Day proclamation during his entire eight years in office.  Who was he?

9.  One president created a national controversy by declaring that Thanksgiving was to be changed to the third Thursday in November while in office.  Who was this president?

10. A joint resolution of Congress declared that the American Thanksgiving would always be on the fourth Thursday of November.  In which year did Congress make this decision?

11. In 1846, this lady began a personal, intensive Campaign to get Thanksgiving declared a national holiday annually by each president.  Who was this editor of Godey's Lady's Book?

12. What president finally agreed with the lady discussed above?

13. Extant records make no mention of these two traditional foods being served at the first Thanksgiving.  Name the foods.

14. Tradition tells us that the Indians provided this food for the first Thanksgiving.  What was it?

15. This chief of the Wampanoag tribe was invited to the first Thanksgiving.  Who was he?

16. At the first Thanksgiving, games and contests were held.  The Captain of the Plymouth colony militia demonstrated his shooting skills for the Indians.  Who was this captain?

17. What famous colonial American lobbied long and hard to have the turkey declared our national bird?

18. Our earliest American-English settlers were aware of this English Thanksgiving celebration.  What was it called in England?

19. Which department store organized the first toy parade on Thanksgiving Day in 1920?

20. Indian pudding was served at the first Thanksgiving.  What are the main ingredients in the dish?

21. How long did the first Thanksgiving celebration last?


John L Oldani; Ph.D. is a former professor of folklore and currently lectures widely on the subjects of American folklore. 1




1.   Pilgrims

2.   Mayflower

3.   George Washington on Nov. 26, 1789

4.   1621

5.   Governor Bradford

6.   A drought for which a time of fasting and prayer were decreed and which ended in a “mild, gentle and thorough rain which saved their crops".

7.   Squanto

8.   Thomas Jefferson

9.   Franklin D. Roosevelt

10. 1941

11. Sarah Josepha Hale

12. In 1863, Lincoln agreed

13. Pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce

14. Venison (deer)

15. Massasoit

16. Myles Standish

17. Benjamin Franklin

18. The Harvest home

19. Gimbel's Department Store

20. Cornmeal and molasses

21. Three days



Scoring the Answers:


21 correct: A bona-fide American!  Right off the Mayflower!

20-16 correct: You've at least visited Plymouth Rock!

15-11 correct: You probably hate pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce!

10-0  correct: What else?  A real turkey!


The First Thanksgiving with Real Pilgrim Fathers: Bradford and Winslow


Rain came in answer to the Pilgrims’ time of fasting and prayer when their gardens were dieing from the drought and, as Governor Bradford wrote in his history of our founding, Of Plimouth Plantation, their staple food, corn, “was withering away.”  Below you can read Bradford’s report from his manuscript telling how God answered their prayers and they later were able to enjoy a real time of feasting with their neighbors, the “Indeans,” who invited themselves but were warmly welcomed as you will see from the second paragraph, an excerpt from another publication.  As to their answer to prayer: Rain!  We read:


It, came ...without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance, as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith.  Which did so apparently revive & quicken the decayed corn & other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather, as, through his blessing, caused a fruitful & liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.  For which mercy (in time convenient) they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.  This being overslipt in its place, I thought meet here to insert the same.


Governor Bradford’s description of their harvest that brought about the above celebration is also beautiful to read:


They began now to gather in the small harvest they had and to fit up their houses and wellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.  For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.  All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.  Besides they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corm to that proportion, which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.2


We follow this with a description of the festivities written by another Pilgrim, Edward Winslow.


Our harvest being gotten, our governor (Bradford, ed.) sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.3


And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, that by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.  We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving, and ready to pleasure us.  We often go to them, and they come to us.  Some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them, the occasions and relations whereof you shall understand by our general and more full declaration of such things as are worth the noting.4



You will discover a treasure house of jewels in regard to our county’s founding in The Governor’s Story  and other books just follow the links.


1. The above article and quiz by Prof. Oldani was published in a local newspaper some years ago.  It has been edited and posted for the Rebuilders’ web site by the owner for your enjoyment.  I hope you’ll use it for this celebration of the 378th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ and the Indians’ Thanksgiving in 1621 (Winslow’s date).

2. Bradford, Governor William, Of Plymouth Plantation, from Samuel Eliot Morison’s edition, Alfed A. Knopf, publishers, 1952, p. 90.

3. Edward Winslow’s letter of 11 Dec. 1621 to a friend in England describing this “First Thanksgiving” is printed in Mourt’s Relations, pp. 60-65).

4. Mourt’s Relations, p. 72.

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