5 Thanksgivings that Happened Before Plymouth Rock

The first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Rock in 1621, right? Not exactly.

As a matter of fact, those Pilgrims we read about may have been late to the party, because Thanksgiving was nothing new by the time those colonists sat down to eat. No one’s sure where the tradition began, but we have a few ideas:

Maybe it was this Brick Shrine in Berkely Hundred


Berkely Hundred is a plantation in Virginia, and one of the oldest steads in the Colonial United States. Their founding charter established a date for Thanksgiving in 1619—two years BEFORE Plymouth Rock.

John F. Kennedy later decided their tradition was good enough for the whole country to follow, saying, ” “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.”



It Might Have Been on a Boat


Before Berkely, tradition states a crew sailing through the barely-explored Northwest Passage took the time to pause and give thanks for their survival, leading to the first Thanksgiving tradition in America. This event may have inspired Canadian Thanksgiving, but then again, not every historian is convinced this event even took place. However…


It could have started in Texas


In 1598, a group of parched, starving Spanish explorers found the Rio Grande. The crew had nearly died of dehydration (saved only by a few, sparse rain showers) before finding the river and later getting food from indigenous people in the Southwest, and they celebrated with a grand feast alongside their new friends. Certainly sounds like a precursor to the Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving of 1621, and the feast is sometimes still recreated by locals.


Then again, maybe it was under these Palm Trees


Spanish Explorer Pedro Menendez appears to have celebrated a Thanksgiving feast with  a First People’s group in Florida 65 years before any such feast in Plymouth Rock, and  his celebration seems identical to anything what the Pilgrims described. Did he inspire Turkey Day by having a thankful meal with Native Americans in St. Augustine, Florida? It’s very possible.


No, wait. It’s Texas.


Even before Perdo Menendez sat down for his meal in Florida, in 1541 Francisco Vázquez de Coronado may hosted the first Thanksgiving meal in beautiful Palo Duro canyon. It’s hard to think of a more picturesque spot to launch a tradition, but evidence for this theory is scarce.


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