The first Thanksgiving, celebrated by Pilgrim colonists and Wampanoag Indians in 1621, looked very different from the Thanksgiving we celebrate today. Having barely survived their first New England winter, the Pilgrims, upon late year harvesting, decided to give thanks with the assistance of the Native Americans who graciously helped them. Making a Lego Mayflower completes their tale.
What was served at the First Thanksgiving in 1621?
Food historians (did you know there was such a thing?) differ as to what specific foods were served at that first Thanksgiving. Anthropology professor Anthony Aveni, for example, writes that Pilgrim men were sent out to kill wild turkeys and other fowl for the feast. British historian Godfrey Hodgson, however, denies that wild turkey was part of the feast, citing the archeological absence of any turkey bones found at the early settlement as well as the inability to shoot turkeys with the type of weapons used by the Pilgrims.
Fowl killed for the meal probably included duck and geese. It’s widely agreed that the Wampanoag Indians brought five slain deer. The first Thanksgiving most likely featured venison cooked as a stew that included beans, corn, and squash.
What food was missing that we traditionally eat now?
Although pumpkins were grown by the native peoples, there would have been no pumpkin pies in any way, shape, or form. In later years, pumpkin slices were fried then baked as a pie. But in 1621, the Pilgrims would have had no ovens. Additionally, sweet potatoes did not exist in early New England. That means no sweet potato pie or casserole either.
Cranberries grow everywhere in New England even in early colonial times. The native people would have cooked them to use as a sauce for fish and meats. In 1621, the Pilgrims had no sugar, necessary in the preparation of a Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Natives would not have shared the goodness of cranberries with the new settlers until around 1670.
A couple of items that we don’t normally eat at traditional Thanksgiving, probably had a prominent place at the first Thanksgiving table. Corn bread as well as corn on the cob was most likely brought to the table by the Wampanoags. Indian bread was made from roasted corn ears, something that could be taken on long journeys. Beans were also prominently featured as beans contain protein and came in a number of varieties. They are easy to grow, cook, and eat. New England would eventually become famous for its’ baked beans.
Why did the Pilgrims celebrate the first Thanksgiving in 1621?
The Pilgrims learned much from their Native American neighbors. Native peoples showed the new settlers how to use fish such as lobster to fertilize crops. Unlike Europeans who use the crop-rotation methods dating back to the Middle Ages, Native Americans in New England grew most of their crops together so that one type of plant would enhance the growth of others. Pumpkins, for example, grew on the outer rim, thus protecting corn, squash, and peas from weeds. Beans grew up the stalks of corn where they trellised naturally. Native Americans epitomized the idea of work smarter not harder before it was cool.
How can we celebrate like the first Thanksgiving?
The best part of homeschool is that you can use holidays and other events to make a lesson hands on and visual. Replicating the first Thanksgiving is great for any child, regardless of how they learn. It also makes super fun memories that you will laugh about for years to come.
If you’re desire is to replicate the first Thanksgiving, you must be prepared to give up apple and pecan pies, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and the centerpiece roasted turkey. That’s not even close to what the first Thanksgiving looked like in any way, shape, or form.
For starters, you could serve venison cooked as a stew with the appropriate vegetables and served in a common bowl. It would certainly be a courageous way to be true to what that first Thanksgiving meal looked like.
Not all foods need to look different although they aren’t what you would normally eat at Thanksgiving. In 1621, the Indians heated their corn, creating popcorn. The Pilgrims had butter, saved from their voyage over on the Mayflower. Although totally rancid, the participants doused the buttery liquid over their popcorn, perhaps the first time on the American continent that anyone snacked on hot buttered popcorn.
Complete your first Thanksgiving study by eating hot buttered popcorn while watching a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. The second video has a fabulous retelling of the Mayflower to 1st Thanksgiving story.
Make a Lego Mayflower
Want a list of bricks needed? The list is after the instructions.
To make the body of the ship:
- There are three levels to the ship’s body.
- Level 1 – Align the two 2×10 bricks.
- Level 2 – Snap the two 2×3 inv roof tiles along the seam on each side of the 2×10 bricks on level one to hold them together. Along the edges of the 2×10 bricks, place five brown 2×2 inv roof tiles on each side.
- Level 3 – Over the opening of level 2, snap the 2×4 plates with the flat plate at the stern of the ship’s body. At the bow of the ship, snap the two 3×3 1×4 circle blocks. Directly behind these blocks, place the 1×2 palisade block in the middle. Then, line each side of the ship’s body (from bow to stern) with a 1×2 brick, a 1×4 brick with knobs, and another 1×2 brick.
To make the stern/cabin:
- There are three levels to the stern/cabin.
- Level 1 – Align the two brown 3×3 ¼ circle bricks and snap onto the stern of the ship’s stern over the beige 2×3 inv roof tile. Attach the 1×2 brick to the studs in the back across the seam of the ¼ circle bricks. On the edges of the next row, place a nose cone on each side. Attach two 1×1 bricks with knobs to the front corners and another two (one on each side) on the side of the ship’s body, creating the illusion of two windows on each side of the cabin. Then, place the two remaining nose cones on the edge of the ship’s body.
- To make level two: On the 3×6 corner plate, snap together two brown 1×2 bricks and place on the back. On the next row forward, make two stacks of red 1×1 round bricks, placing one set on each side of the stacked 1×2 bricks. Align the 2×6 plate with the front of the 3×6 corner plate and attach the brown 1X2X3 73° roof tiles with one on each side. In the middle of the 2×6 plate, attach a brown 1×1 round brick. To the underside of the corner plate, add the 1×4 with arch at the front.
- To make level three: On a 3×6 corner plate, attach the 1×2 to the 2 studs in the back. Snap one 1×1 round plate to each side of the front. Attach a 1×2 brick with bow to each 1×1 round plate and two to the 1×2 in the back.
- Snap the three levels together.
To make the 2 main masts:
- Stack 3 tan 1×2 bricks. Repeat with remaining 1×2 bricks, creating 4 total stacks.
- To create the top sails: On a 1×4 plate, attach a white 1x2x3 brick on the middle two knobs. Directly behind this block, place a tan stack. To each side of the white 1x2x3 brick, place a white 1X2X3 73° roof tile. On top, place another 2×4 plate. Repeat to build an identical sail.
- To build the bottom sails: On a 2×6 brick, attach a white 1x2x3 brick on the middle two knobs. Directly behind this block, place a tan stack. To each side of the white 1x2x3 brick, place a white 1X2X3 73° roof tile. On top, place a 2×4 plate. Repeat to build an identical sail.
- Attach the top to the bottom sail using a 2×2 round brick. Repeat for each set to create two masts.
- One the bottom of each mast, attach a 2×2 round brick.
- On one mast, attach the 2×2 round plate to the bottom of the 2×2 round brick and a 2×2 brick. This is the back mast. Snap into the ship’s body in front of the stern/cabin.
- On the forward mast, attach a 2×2 plate to the bottom of the 2×2 round brick. Snap into the ship’s body over the palisade block.
- To the top of each mast, attach a 1×1 nose cone and a red 1×3 brick with bow.
To make the bow mast:
- Attach the two brown 1×1 round plates to one another. Snap this under the 1×1 plate. On the same edge of the 1×1 plate where the round plates are attached, stack the 1×1 brick with knob, and 2 1×1 round bricks.
- On the remaining stud of the 1×1 plate, attach the white 1X2X3 73° roof tile.
- At the end of the mast, attach the 1X2 45° roof tile to hold the two loose ends together.
To make the stern mast:
- On one 1×1 brick with knob, attach the brown stick to the knob and top with the nose cone.
- Align the white 1×3 brick with the remaining 1×1 brick with knob. Snap the two 1 X 2 X 2/3, ABS roof tiles to hold the two bricks together creating a rectangle sail. On the ending knob, attach the brown 1×1 round tile.
- Attach the rectangle sail to the 1×1 brick with knob holding the stick.
To make the bow of the ship:
- Create a staggered staircase by attaching four of the 2×2 plates together. Attach the staircase to the 2×6 plate on the 2nd and 3rd row of studs.
- Below the top of the stairs, attach the remaining 2×2 plate. Across the top, place the two 1×2 with arch bricks to create the curved finish.
- Snap the 2×6 plate onto the stern of the ship’s body over the two 3×3 ¼ circle bricks.
- Under the bow’s staircase, attach the brown 1×1 round brick. Then, align the bow mast under the 1×1 round brick and 2×6 plate, attaching to the 2×6 plate with the open knob on the bow mast.
Bricks needed to make ship
For the ship’s body:
2 brown 1×4 bricks with knobs
4 brown 1×2 bricks
1 tan 1×2 palisade brick
2 brown 3×3 ¼ circle bricks
3 beige 2×4 plates
1 tan 2×4 flat plate
2 beige 2×3 inv roof tile
10 brown 2×2 inv roof tile
2 brown 2×10 bricks
For the 2 main masts:
12 tan 1×2 bricks
8 white 1X2X3 73° roof tiles
6 white 2×4 plates
4 tan 2×2 round bricks
4 white 1x2x3 bricks OR 12 white 1×2 bricks
2 white 2×6 bricks
2 brown 1×1 nose cones
2 red 1×3 bricks with bow
1 brown 2×2 brick
1 brown 2×2 plate
1 tan 2×2 round plates
For the bow mast:
2 brown 1×1 round plates
1 white 1×1 plate
1 white 1×1 brick with knob
2 white 1×1 round bricks
1 white 1X2 45° roof tile
1 white 1X2X3 73° roof tile
For the stern mast:
2 white 1×1 brick with knobs
1 brown stick
1 brown 1×2 nose cone
1 brown 1×1 round plate
1 white 1×3 brick
2 white 1 X 2 X 2/3, ABS roof tiles
For the stern/cabin:
Level 1 –
2 brown 3×3 ¼ circle bricks
1 beige 1×2 brick
4 beige 1×1 bricks with knob
4 gold 1×1 nose cones
Level 2 –
1 brown 3×6 corner plate
1 beige 1×2 brick
2 beige 1×1 bricks with knob
2 gold 1×1 nose cones
1 beige 1×4 with arch
Level 3 –
4 brown 1×2 bricks with bow
1 brown 1×2 brick
2 tan 1×1 round plates
1 tan 3×6 corner plate
For the bow:
1 tan 2×6 plate
5 brown 2×2 plates
2 brown 1×2 bricks with bow
1 brown 1×1 round brick