John Carver Inn & Spa | Thanksgiving Day History & Traditions

Thanksgiving in Historic Plymouth
Thanksgiving in Plymouth

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, reconnect with family and friends, and eat delicious food. The holiday feast dates back to the autumn of 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Native Americans gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration, an event regarded as America’s “first Thanksgiving.” 

Thanksgiving Day History 
In 1620, the English colonists landed on Plymouth Rock and barely survived their first winter. But with the help of the friendly Wampanoag Indians, who taught the Pilgrims how to hunt the local game, catch fish, and plant corn and squash, the Pilgrims succeeded in establishing a flourishing colony. After the Pilgrims successfully harvested their first crops in the autumn of 1621, they held a feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest with the tribe that helped make it possible. Most of what is known about the historic feast is based on two primary sources: the written account of Edward Winslow, an English leader who attended the feast, and an excerpt from the journal of William Bradford, who was the governor of the Plymouth Colony. 

While we celebrate one day of Thanksgiving, the festivities in 1621 went on for three days. There were 53 English colonists and at least 90 Wampanoag Indians who gathered to eat and partake in games, historians say. It’s believed that they ran races and shot at marks as forms of entertainment. But what did they eat at this historic feast? According to the written account of William Bradford, there was a “great store of wild turkeys” to be eaten, as well as ducks, geese, and fish. Edward Winslow wrote that the Wampanoag guests arrived with an offering of five deer. It’s thought that the English ate off of tables, while the Native Americans dined on the ground. There’s no evidence that the Pilgrims called the feast a “Thanksgiving”, although they did give thanks to God. According to historians, the event wasn’t repeated for at least another decade. President Abraham Lincoln officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday by proclamation in 1863.

Thanksgiving Today
Today, we celebrate this holiday on the fourth Thursday in November and remember the historic feast between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians. It’s a time for family, delicious food and giving thanks. In Plymouth, Thanksgiving celebrations are abundant. The Annual America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration Parade takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. The weekend of festivities is a celebration of Thanksgiving and our nation’s history and heritage. History is brought to life as Pilgrims, Native Americans, Soldiers, Patriots, and Pioneers parade from the historic Plymouth Harbor all the way down Main Street.  

Thanksgiving at the John Carver Inn & Spa 
The John Carver Inn & Spa is located in the heart of historic Plymouth, on the site of the original Pilgrim settlement. Our full-service Inn offers warm hospitality and historical sophistication with modern-day conveniences in our 80 spacious rooms and suites. From the Inn, guests are able to take a short walk to many of Plymouth’s historic sites and attractions, including Plymouth Rock, Burial Hill, Plimouth Plantation, the First Courthouse, the Jenny Grist Mill, the Mayflower II and the gorgeous waterfront.

Our elegant Thanksgiving banquet will truly be a harvest celebration to remember. You’ll share an unforgettable four course meal in the company of family, friends and with guests from around the country. Our magnificent four course meal starts with a bowl of thick, creamy New England corn chowder. Next, you’ll enjoy a crisp and refreshing salad. The main Thanksgiving dinner features classic roast turkey with all the traditional New England trimmings, including our own cranberry sage stuffing, mashed potatoes and savory gravy, warm butternut squash purée, classic peas with onions, and freshly baked rolls and corn muffins. For dessert, enjoy a selection of fresh pumpkin or apple pie, grapenut custard, or Indian pudding with ice cream. Seconds are on us!  You’ll also be sent home with a care package of fresh turkey sandwiches on slices of our perfectly soft and chewy fresh bread. You can enjoy all the classic Thanksgiving dishes with none of the hard work. Make your reservations today to ensure a table.