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How to Explain The Story of Thanksgiving to Kids

How to Explain The Story of Thanksgiving to Kids

How to Explain The Story of Thanksgiving to Kids

Thanksgiving is an important holiday because it teaches kids the value of gratitude and thankfulness. But how exactly do you tell your kids the story of Thanksgiving? Well, that’s what this guide will help you achieve!

Here is how to tell the history of Thanksgiving to kids, along with a few pointers on how to convey the meaning of this holiday to kids. 

Thanksgiving History Story: First Version

The history of Thanksgiving dates back to 1621. Back then, the Pilgrims, or English colonists who had come to America, held a harvest feast with the Wampanoag, a Native American tribe. 

The colonists had gone out to look for birds to eat. After their hunt, the Wampanoag showed up at their settlement. The two groups engaged in a friendly manner with each other, and the Wampanoag brought them food as well. 

This positive interaction in 1621 led to decades of peace between the two groups, becoming the inspiration for the modern celebration of Thanksgiving. 

These details would make an interesting explanation of Thanksgiving for kids. 

Thanksgiving History Story: Second Version

This version explains more historical facts behind the story of Thanksgiving. Here are the highlights: 

  • In 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Harbor. They met Squanto, a Native American who could speak English. He saved them by teaching them how to survive. 
  • Because of Squanto, some Plymouth colonists were able to make it through winter. They held a feast to celebrate, and the Wampanoag Indian tribe was invited.
  • The main dish of the feast was deer, not turkey. Both the Wampanoag and the pilgrims were accepting of each other. 
  • This feast took place over 3 nights
  • More than 200 years later in the 1860s, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving day to be a national holiday. Lincoln created the holiday because of a letter from journalist Sarah Josepha Hale, who said it would be a great Union Festival of America.

Being Honest About the Truth Behind Thanksgiving

A lot of ugly events happened before and after the first Thanksgiving that you may not want to gloss over when telling the story of Thanksgiving to kids. Here are some of the things you may want to mention: 

  • The colonists started to claim land that was not theirs, to begin with. Many of the original natives who owned the land were kept as slaves
  • The term “Thanksgiving” started being used after the slaying of 700 Pequot Indians by colonists
  • Despite the Wampanoag people’s willingness to help and protect the colonists, they still saw the Indians as savages. 

While the modern Thanksgiving version is centered on gratitude, it is a holiday that was based on the greed of the settlers. They would not have survived without the resources and skills they learned from the Native Americans. However, instead of being grateful and trying to live peacefully with them, the colonizers stole their land, enslaved them, and killed them.

Depending on how old your child is, you can opt to either go into details or simply say the colonists were not all good, and they were not thankful at all despite all the good the Indians had done for them. As such, the colonists did not exhibit the spirit of Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until many years later that Thanksgiving day became what it is today. 

Final Thoughts

The history of Thanksgiving day is a complicated one. It is a holiday that has been transformed from a dark past to what we know today. When explaining the story of thanksgiving to kids, it is important to clarify some common myths about it and give it to them straight so that they know that there were original people in this country before the settlers came in. And the way that that happened may not have been ideal. Happy Thanksgiving! 

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