Thanksgiving 400 – Learning the History Behind the Holiday at Plimoth Patuxet Museums

Learning the history behind
the holiday at Plimoth Patuxet Museums.

By David Kindy


Think you know about Thanksgiving? Think again. This fall, Plimoth Patuxet Museums will be commemorating the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving with the launch of a new exhibit, “We Gather Together: Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and the Making of an American Holiday.” On display at the museum’s main campus, this new exhibit will examine the history around the homespun holiday.

Also new this year is the Smithsonian Channel documentary, “Behind the Holiday: The First Thanksgiving,” which will have its premiere at Plimoth Patuxet on Saturday, Nov. 20. This free screening will be followed by a discussion with the film’s production team. Many of the film’s cinematic, 17th-century reproduction scenes were filmed at Plimoth Patuxet.

While no one is completely certain what the menu was at the First Thanksgiving, the Museum’s New England Harvest Feast may come very close. This 17th-century dinner features items like mussels, roast turkey and pork, fish, a sweet pudding made with native corn and many other authentic dishes. More familiar Thanksgiving dinner options are also available including a “traditional” Thanksgiving Homestyle Buffet, where roast turkey and fixings are served at communal tables to “The Story of Thanksgiving” Dinner, an elegant event which features educational and entertaining moments between each course. Make your reservations early as these events sell out fast. 

For those who cannot make it to the museum, Plimoth Patuxet also offers a popular interactive computer game known as “You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving,” which helps children and families learn about the holiday. The game investigates the interactions between the Pokanoket Wampanoag and the Plymouth Colonists by exposing players to archaeological artifacts from the museum’s collections, primary source documents and oral stories told from generation to generation.

For more information about Plimoth Patuxet Museums or to purchase tickets for events, call 508-746-1622, or visit