The first Thanksgiving story
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A little bit of history to understand what the USA celebrates on the 4th Thursday of November, Thanksgiving Day.

You can learn more about this with this interactive activity: First Thanksgiving.


The story of the first Thanksgiving.

Around 400 years ago, many people in England were unhappy because their king would not let them pray to God as they liked. The king said they must use the same prayers that he did, and if they refused, they were persecuted, imprisoned or even killed.

These English men left their homes and went far off to a country called Holland. In Holland they were happy but they were very poor. And when the children began to grow they became less godlike and did not want to pray anymore. After much talking and thinking, these English people decided to embark on a pilgrimage to the new world. America.

They set out on a small ship called the Mayflower to take them across the sea. There were about 100 people on board the tiny ship. It was crowded, cold and uncomfortable. The sea was rough. They were two months sailing over the Atlantic Ocean. At last the Mayflower came in sight of land.

The month was November and it was cold. There was nothing to be seen but snow, rocks and hard bare ground. They were tired and cold from their long journey, and hungry too. No one had enough food to eat. Many of them became sick and by springtime almost half of the people died.

In spring the sun shone brightly. The snow melted and the leaves and flowers began to emerge. Some friendly Indians have visited the pilgrims during the winter. One of the kind Indians was named Squanto. He stayed with the pilgrims and taught them how to plant their corn, peas, wheat and barley.

The summer came and the days were long and bright. The pilgrim children were very happy in their new home, Plymouth Rock. When it was autumn the fathers gathered the barley, wheat and corn that they had planted and found that it had grown so well that they would have quite enough for a long winter that was coming.

“Let us thank God for it all” they said. Then they decided to have a grand Thanksgiving party and invite the friendly Indians. They prepared wild ducks and geese and great wild turkeys. There was deer meet, bread and cakes. They had fish and clams from the sea nearby. The friendly Indians all came with their chief. They were dressed in deer skins and some of them had the furry coat of a wild cat hanging on their arm. Their long black hair fell loose on their shoulders and was trimmed with feathers or fox tails.

Before they ate, the pilgrims and the Indians thanked God together for all his goodness. And so the story goes of the first Thanksgiving celebrated in Plymouth colony nearly 400 years ago. As you sit down with your friends and family this Thanksgiving, remember this original tale and give thanks for all of Gods abundant blessings.


THANKSGIVING= An act of giving thanks, especially to God.

WOULD NOT LET= Refused to let... (didn't want to let them...)
The verb WILL and its past tense WOULD is often used with a meaning similar to WANT.

PRAY= Talk to God or other heavenly spirits.

THEY MUST USE= They had to use.
Notice that the form "must" is the same for the present and the past (and is never followed by "to"). In this sentence it is a past form.

FAR OFF= Far away.

HOLLAND= The Netherlands.

GODLIKE= Similar to God, divine. In this text, godlike children means children who are good Christians, showing good virtues and love for God.

EMBARK= To go onboard a ship (to get inside a ship or boat).

PILGRIMAGE= A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance (that's why the English people who arrived in America on that trip are still called "the pilgrims").

SET OUT= Start a journey.

ON BOARD= Inside (or on top of) a ship or plain.

CROWDED= With lots of people and little space.

ROUGH= /rʌf/ If the sea is rough, the weather is bad and windy, so there are big waves (and the ship is rocking and moving a lot from side to side).

If you come in sight of something, you get to see it.

THERE WAS NOTHING TO BE SEEN= They could see nothing.

BARE= Naked, with nothing covering it. Bare ground is ground with no vegetation.

SICK (AmE) = Ill (BrE).
In AmE both words mean the same, but in England they mean the same if they go before a noun, and they mean different things when they go after some verbs (especially after "to be"):
- A sick man = an ill man.
- I was ill = I was not in good health (AmE = I was sick)
- Yesterday I was sick twice= I vomited.

MELTED= Became liquid. If ice or snow melts, it becomes water.

EMERGE= Appear, come to the surface.

THE PILGRIMS= The English people who arrived on the Mayflower ship, the first European settlers of the Anglo-Saxon America.

CORN (AmE)= Maize (BrE)  [corn (BrE) = wheat (BrE/AmE)]

BARLEY= Click the words below to see the pictures of these cereals:
Corn (AmE)/Maize (BrE), peas, wheat, barley (barley is similar to wheat in appearance, but not usually used for human food).

BRIGHT= Sunny.

LET US= (formal) Let's..., why don't we...? (used to make a proposal).

CLAMS= Click the words below to see the pictures of these animals:
ducks, geese (singular "goose"), turkeys, deer, clams.

CHIEF= Captain.

FURRY= Made with the fur of an animal (fur= skin covered with think hair, like the skin covering most animals).

TRIMMED= Adorned, decorated.

FEATHER= /feðə*/ Each of the things covering the skin of a bird (see picture).

AND SO THE STORY GOES OF...= And that is the story of...

ABUNDANT= Plentiful, existing in a great quantity (more than enough).

BLESSINGS= Things that make you happy (especially if you consider them a gift from God)