The First Thanksgiving Celebration: A Jumpstart for Vocabulary Development

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The first Thanksgiving celebration

Welcome to this blog post where we will be participants in the First Thanksgiving celebration together.

As we gather around the Thanksgiving table, our thoughts often turn to gratitude, family, and of course, the delicious feast that awaits us.

But beyond the turkey and pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving has a rich history that offers a unique opportunity—a chance to enrich your vocabulary while exploring the roots of this beloved holiday.

In this blog post, I invite you on a journey back in time to the very first Thanksgiving celebration.

As we uncover the stories and traditions that shaped this holiday, I’ll also show you how this historical event can serve as a powerful catalyst for vocabulary development.

So, whether you’re a lifelong word enthusiast or just beginning to study the English language, join me for a fascinating exploration of Thanksgiving’s linguistic treasures.

The First Thanksgiving Celebration

The first Thanksgiving celebration

The History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special holiday celebrated in both the United States and Canada.

Its roots go way back in history to when European settlers arrived in North America.

In the United States:

In the U.S., the tradition is linked to the Pilgrims, who sailed from England on the Mayflower in 1620.

They faced a tough first winter, but with the help of Native Americans, they learned how to grow crops like corn and squash.

In 1621, they celebrated a successful harvest with a feast, which is often considered The First Thanksgiving celebration.

Today, Thanksgiving in the U.S. is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Families and friends gather to share a big meal, including turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. It’s a time to give thanks for the year’s blessings.

In Canada

The first Thanksgiving celebration

In Canada, Thanksgiving has a slightly different history.

It’s linked to explorer Martin Frobisher, who arrived in Canada in 1578 and held a ceremony to give thanks for his safe journey and that was the first Thanksgiving celebration.

It wasn’t until 1879 that Thanksgiving became an official holiday in Canada.

Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October.

Families come together to enjoy a meal featuring turkey, cranberry sauce, and other dishes.

Just like in the U.S., it’s a time to express gratitude for all the good things in life.

So, while the histories of Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Canada are a bit different, both holidays share the wonderful tradition of gathering with loved ones to give thanks and enjoy a delicious feast.

Since I live in Canada, I want to share with you some of the decorations I came across at the Michaels store in Toronto.

The first Thanksgiving celebration I experienced was many years ago, in October, the month I arrived in Canada when I was invited to join a Canadian family.

The first Thanksgiving celebration

What are the 10 things associated with Thanksgiving?

  1. Turkey: Roast turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal in many households. It’s often stuffed and roasted to perfection, then carved and served with various side dishes.
  2. Pumpkin Pie: Pumpkin pie is a quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. Made with spiced pumpkin filling in a flaky crust, it’s a sweet and comforting treat.
  3. Family Gatherings: Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together. Many people travel long distances to be with loved ones and share the holiday meal.
  4. Gratitude: Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for the blessings of the past year. It’s a time to reflect on what we’re grateful for and express appreciation.
  5. Parades and Football: In the U.S., Thanksgiving Day parades are a tradition in many cities, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City being the most famous. Additionally, watching football games is a common activity for many on Thanksgiving.
  6. Cranberry Sauce: Cranberry sauce, either homemade or canned, is a popular side dish on the Thanksgiving table. Its sweet and tangy flavor complements the savory dishes.
  7. Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes often make an appearance as a beloved side dish. They’re frequently served with gravy.
  8. Cornucopia: A symbol of abundance, the cornucopia (or “horn of plenty”) is often used as a decorative centerpiece during Thanksgiving festivities. It’s typically filled with seasonal fruits, vegetables, and gourds.
  9. Harvest Decorations: Thanksgiving is associated with autumn, so many decorations feature fall foliage, pumpkins, and cornstalks. These decorations help create a cozy and festive atmosphere.
  10. Black Friday Shopping: In the United States, Thanksgiving also marks the start of the holiday shopping season, with Black Friday sales beginning the day after Thanksgiving. Many people take advantage of discounts and deals during this time.

What are the symbols of Canadian Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving shares some symbols with its American counterpart, but it also has unique elements and symbols associated with the holiday.

Harvest Foods: Just like in the United States, Canadian Thanksgiving is associated with a bountiful harvest. Typical foods include roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and a variety of vegetables. Pumpkin and apple pies are common desserts.

Cornucopia: The cornucopia, also known as the “horn of plenty,” is a symbol of abundance and a common decorative element during Canadian Thanksgiving. It’s often filled with seasonal fruits, vegetables, and gourds.

Fall Decorations: Canadian Thanksgiving takes place in the fall, so decorations often include autumnal elements like colorful leaves, pumpkins, squash, and cornstalks. These items are used to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Thanksgiving Parade: Some Canadian cities host Thanksgiving parades similar to those in the United States. The largest of these parades is the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade, which incorporates Thanksgiving themes.

Family and Friends: Thanksgiving in Canada is a time for families and friends to come together, just as it is in the United States. The emphasis is on gratitude and spending quality time with loved ones.

Outdoor Activities: In parts of Canada, especially where the weather is still pleasant in October, outdoor activities like hiking, apple picking, and enjoying the vibrant fall foliage are common ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.

While some symbols are shared with American Thanksgiving, Canadian Thanksgiving has unique cultural elements and traditions that make it a special holiday in its own right.

What are 3 interesting facts about Thanksgiving in Canada and the US?

The first Thanksgiving celebration

Thanksgiving in Canada

Different Date: Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October, while American Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November. This discrepancy in dates is due to the historical and geographical differences in the harvest seasons between the two countries.

Explorer’s Influence: Canadian Thanksgiving has ties to explorer Martin Frobisher, who held a ceremony in 1578 to give thanks for his safe voyage to the New World. It wasn’t until 1879 that Thanksgiving became an official holiday in Canada.

Regional Variations: Canada’s diverse cultural makeup has influenced Thanksgiving celebrations. While roast turkey is still a staple, many Canadians also include dishes from their cultural backgrounds, creating a multicultural feast.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation: President Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863, officially establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the United States. He did this during the Civil War to promote unity and gratitude.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is one of the most famous parades in the world. It began in 1924 and features enormous helium balloons, colorful floats, and performances by celebrities and marching bands.

Presidential Pardoning of Turkeys: In a light-hearted tradition, U.S. presidents often “pardon” a turkey before Thanksgiving. The pardoned turkey is spared from becoming part of the holiday meal and typically lives out its days on a farm or at a zoo.

Turkey wasn’t on the menu at the first Thanksgiving celebration: The first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621 did not feature turkey as we know it today. Instead, historical records suggest that the feast likely included a variety of wild game, such as ducks, geese, swans, and deer, and seafood like fish and shellfish, along with locally grown crops like corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins.

The tradition of serving turkey as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal evolved over time and became a symbol of the holiday in the United States.

What are the specific colors of Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving celebration

While there isn’t a single specific color that universally signifies Thanksgiving, several colors are commonly associated with the holiday due to its autumnal theme. These colors reflect the changing foliage and harvest season:

Orange: Orange is often associated with pumpkins, one of the most iconic symbols of Thanksgiving. It represents the vibrant colors of autumn and the warmth of a festive meal.

Brown: Brown is reminiscent of the earth and the natural colors of fall. It’s often used for decorations like pinecones, wooden accents, and Thanksgiving table settings.

Yellow: Yellow symbolizes the changing leaves on trees during the fall season. It’s a bright and cheerful color that adds warmth to Thanksgiving decor.

Red: Red is associated with the colors of autumn foliage and is often used for decorative elements like berries and red apples.

Gold: Gold signifies the abundance and harvest associated with Thanksgiving. It’s used to represent the rich blessings of the season.

Green: Green represents the evergreen plants and the remaining green foliage before winter. It’s often used as an accent color in Thanksgiving decorations.

These colors are used in various combinations for Thanksgiving decorations, including table settings, centerpieces, wreaths, and more, to create a cozy and festive atmosphere that reflects the beauty of the autumn season.

What are the common greetings

During the Thanksgiving holiday season, people often exchange warm greetings and express their gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving: This is the most traditional and widely used greeting during the Thanksgiving season. It’s a simple and heartfelt way to wish someone a joyful and thankful holiday.

Thanksgiving Wishes: You can also extend your greetings by saying, “Sending you Thanksgiving wishes.” It’s a friendly and warm way to convey your thoughts.

Blessings: You might say, “May your Thanksgiving be filled with blessings.” This greeting emphasizes the idea of gratitude and blessings during the holiday.

Grateful: “I’m grateful for you” or “Wishing you a day filled with gratitude” are expressions that highlight the theme of thankfulness.

Warmest Greetings: To add a touch of formality and warmth to your message, you can say, “Warmest Thanksgiving greetings to you and your family.”

Happy Turkey Day: While less formal, “Happy Turkey Day” is a lighthearted and fun way to wish someone a happy Thanksgiving, especially when referring to the delicious turkey meal.

Giving Thanks: “Giving thanks for your presence in my life” is a heartfelt way to express gratitude for the people who are important to you.

Family and Friends: You can also say, “Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with family and friends.” This emphasizes the importance of gathering and togetherness.

Peace and Joy: “May your Thanksgiving be filled with peace and joy” is a warm wish for a peaceful and joyful holiday.

Harvest Blessings: “Harvest blessings to you and yours” is a greeting that connects Thanksgiving to the bountiful harvest season.

Remember, the choice of greeting depends on your relationship with the person you’re addressing and the tone you want to convey. Whether it’s a simple “Happy Thanksgiving” or a more elaborate expression of gratitude, the sentiment behind the greeting is what matters most during this special holiday.

Thanksgiving-themed words along with common phrases or expressions that include those words

Now I’ll provide a list of Thanksgiving-themed words along with common phrases or expressions that include those words:


  1. “Talking turkey” (meaning having a serious conversation)
  2. “Like a turkey on Thanksgiving” (meaning feeling nervous or worried)


  1. “Pilgrim’s progress” (referring to progress in one’s journey or development)


  1. “Horn of plenty” (an abundance of good things)


  1. “Going cranberry picking” (a humorous expression for making a mistake)


  1. “Count your blessings” (appreciate what you have)


  1. “Reap what you sow” (consequences of your actions)
  2. “Harvest time” (time for gathering crops)


  1. “Feast your eyes on” (to look at something with great pleasure)
  2. “Feast or famine” (either abundance or scarcity, no middle ground)


  1. “Say grace” (a prayer of thanks before a meal)
  2. “In the spirit of Thanksgiving” (showing gratitude and generosity)


  1. “Count your blessings” (appreciate what you have)
  2. “A mixed blessing” (something with both positive and negative aspects)


  1. “Blood is thicker than water” (family ties are stronger than other relationships)
  2. “Home is where the heart is” (family and love make a place feel like home)

These phrases incorporate Thanksgiving-related words and are commonly used in English. They capture the essence of Thanksgiving and related concepts in everyday language.

The First Thanksgiving Celebration / Vocabulary Development

Okay, let’s practice now and see how our The First Thanksgiving Celebration can be a jumpstart for your vocabulary development.

Vocabulary exercises to practice Thanksgiving-related words and phrases

Common Vocabulary Words

Here are some common vocabulary words related to the holiday.

Click on each word for its definition.









Thanksgiving Vocabulary Quiz


  • The quiz can be done individually or in teams.
  • Read each question aloud, and think before providing the answer.
  • Tally the correct answers to determine the winners if you work in teams.


  1. What is the main dish traditionally served at Thanksgiving dinners?
  2. What do you call the decorative horn-shaped basket filled with fruits and vegetables?
  3. In the story of the first Thanksgiving, who helped the pilgrims and taught them how to grow food?
  4. What’s the sweet dessert often made from a large, orange vegetable that’s popular on Thanksgiving?
  5. What do you call the act of expressing thanks or being thankful for something?
  6. Which bird is often the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving meal and is known for its large feathers?
  7. What type of bread is often used to make stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey?
  8. What’s the name for the colorful, mashed side dish made from a root vegetable, often with marshmallows on top?
  9. What’s the term for a group of people who came to America on a big ship called the Mayflower?
  10. In the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, what are the large balloons filled with that float above the streets?

You will find the correct answers to the quiz at the end of this article.

Explain Thanksgiving to little kids


The first Thanksgiving celebration and New traditions

“Thanksgiving is a special day we celebrate to say ‘thank you’ for all the good things in our lives.

It’s a time when families and friends come together to share a big meal and enjoy each other’s company.

One of the most important parts of Thanksgiving is a delicious meal that usually includes a big, roasted turkey.

People also cook yummy dishes like mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

A long time ago, many years before we were born, there were people called ‘pilgrims’ who came to America on a big ship.

They had a hard time at first because they didn’t have enough food or a warm place to live.

But, the Native Americans, who were already living here, helped them.

They showed the pilgrims how to grow food like corn and how to survive in this new place.

When the pilgrims had a good harvest and plenty of food, they wanted to say ‘thank you’ to the Native Americans for helping them. So, they all got together and had a big feast, which was like a super special meal.

That was the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Now, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year to remember that time when people came together to be thankful for what they have.

We also remember to be thankful for our families, friends, and all the good things in our lives. It’s a day to share love, food, and gratitude with the people we care about.”

You can also emphasize the importance of sharing, being kind, and showing gratitude during this holiday.

Keep it simple and engaging for young kids, and encourage them to think about what they are thankful for in their own lives.

Telling a story, especially when explaining something like Thanksgiving to children, offers several benefits for you as an English learner:

Enhances Communication Skills: Storytelling involves the use of language, tone, and expression to convey a message effectively. By telling a story, the storyteller can improve their communication skills, including clarity, articulation, and the ability to engage and maintain the listener’s attention.

Deepens Understanding: When explaining a concept or event through storytelling, the storyteller often needs to organize thoughts, choose relevant details, and present information in a coherent manner. This process of structuring and simplifying information can deepen the storyteller’s own understanding of the topic.

Strengthens Memory: To tell a story effectively, the storyteller needs to remember the sequence of events, characters, and key details. This process of recalling information can strengthen the storyteller’s memory and cognitive skills.

Enhances Empathy: Storytelling often involves describing characters, their emotions, and their experiences. Sharing stories with empathy can help the storyteller develop a better understanding of others’ perspectives and emotions.

Fosters Creativity: Crafting a story allows the storyteller to exercise their creativity by inventing characters, settings, and plots. This creative process can enhance imaginative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Builds Confidence: Successfully telling a story, especially to an engaged audience, can boost the storyteller’s self-confidence and public speaking skills. It provides a sense of accomplishment and mastery of the subject matter.

Strengthens Bonding: When sharing stories, particularly personal or cultural ones like Thanksgiving, the storyteller can strengthen bonds with the listeners, whether they are family members, friends, or students. Sharing stories fosters connection and a sense of shared experiences.

Teaching and Mentorship: Telling stories is often a way of imparting knowledge, wisdom, and cultural values. It allows the storyteller to act as a teacher or mentor, passing on important lessons or traditions to the next generation.

Cultural Preservation: Storytelling can play a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage and traditions. When sharing stories related to cultural events like Thanksgiving, the storyteller helps ensure that these traditions are passed down through generations.

Joy and Fulfillment: Sharing stories, especially those that bring joy or laughter, can be personally fulfilling. It brings a sense of joy and happiness to both the storyteller and the listeners, creating positive emotions and memories.

In summary, telling a story, whether it’s about Thanksgiving or any other topic, offers a range of personal benefits, from improved communication skills and memory to enhanced creativity and empathy. It’s a valuable way to connect with others and pass on knowledge and traditions.

Also, teaching others is indeed a powerful tool for comprehending and mastering new vocabulary. Here’s why teaching can be so effective for vocabulary acquisition:

Forces Deeper Understanding: When you teach someone else, you need to have a thorough understanding of the subject matter. This deeper understanding is crucial for explaining concepts, providing examples, and answering questions effectively.

Repetition and Practice: Teaching involves repeatedly using the new vocabulary in various contexts. This repetition reinforces your own memory and helps solidify the meanings and usage of the words.

Encourages Active Engagement: Teaching requires active engagement with the material. You must actively think about how to convey the information, which can help you internalize the vocabulary and its nuances.

Clarifies Concepts: When you teach, you often encounter questions or uncertainties from your learners. This prompts you to clarify concepts and vocabulary, which in turn enhances your own understanding.

Promotes Application: Teaching provides an opportunity to apply the new vocabulary in real-life situations or examples. This practical application helps you grasp how the words are used in context.

Builds Confidence: Successfully teaching others can boost your confidence in using the new vocabulary. It demonstrates your proficiency and mastery of the language.

Feedback Loop: As you teach, you may receive feedback from your learners. This feedback can help you identify areas where you need to improve your understanding or expression of the vocabulary.

Retention and Recall: Teaching can improve your ability to recall and remember vocabulary in the long term because it strengthens the neural pathways associated with those words.

Enhances Communication Skills: Teaching is a form of communication. It sharpens your ability to convey information clearly and effectively, which is an essential skill for using vocabulary in everyday conversations or writing.

Solidifies Learning: Teaching is often the final step in the learning process. It consolidates your knowledge and vocabulary skills, making them more readily accessible for future use.

Whether you’re telling a story about Thanksgiving to a child, helping a friend learn new words, tutoring someone in a subject, or even just explaining a concept, teaching is a valuable tool for personal growth and understanding. It’s an excellent strategy to enhance your vocabulary and overall language proficiency.

The First Thanksgiving Celebration or Turkey-Themed Books

For Children:

  1. “Turkey Trouble” by Wendi Silvano – Follow the hilarious adventures of a turkey trying to avoid becoming Thanksgiving dinner.
  2. “The Great Thanksgiving Escape” by Mark Fearing – A fun story of cousins trying to escape the kids’ table on Thanksgiving.
  3. “10 Fat Turkeys” by Tony Johnston – A counting book with turkeys that disappear one by one in comical ways.
  4. “The Night Before Thanksgiving” by Natasha Wing – A Thanksgiving-themed spin on the classic “Night Before Christmas” poem.
  5. “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” by Eve Bunting – A heartwarming story of a turkey who thinks it’s going to be the main course but finds a surprising twist.
  6. “Thanks for Thanksgiving” by Julie Markes – A picture book that explores the many things children can be thankful for on Thanksgiving.
  7. “Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving” by James Dean – Pete the Cat learns about the history of Thanksgiving in a kid-friendly way.
  8. “The Story of Thanksgiving” by Nancy J. Skarmeas – A simple and informative book that explains the history and traditions of Thanksgiving.

For Adults:

  1. “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well” by Sam Sifton – A guide to cooking a perfect Thanksgiving meal with recipes and tips.
  2. “Thanksgiving: The Biography of an American Holiday” by James W. Baker – A historical exploration of the Thanksgiving holiday and how it has evolved over time.
  3. “The Thanksgiving Table: Recipes and Ideas to Create Your Own Holiday Tradition” by Diane Morgan – A cookbook filled with Thanksgiving recipes and entertaining ideas.
  4. “A Turkey for All Seasons: The Bradford Turkey Trot” by David M. Dyer – A novel that revolves around the Thanksgiving turkey trot in Bradford, Massachusetts.
  5. “Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember” by Barbara Rainey – A book that reflects on the meaning of Thanksgiving and offers stories, recipes, and traditions.
  6. “Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience” by Melanie Kirkpatrick – An exploration of the historical and cultural significance of Thanksgiving in the United States.
  7. “Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, an American History” by Diana Karter Appelbaum – A comprehensive look at the history of Thanksgiving, from its origins to modern celebrations.

These books should help you get into the Thanksgiving spirit, whether you’re looking for fun stories for children or informative reads for adults.

You can also read:

Mastering the Language Learning Process: How to Unlock Proficiency

From Procrastinator to Achiever: Proven Strategies to Boost Productivity

Unlocking Language Acquisition: Key Elements of Learning a New Language

Unlocking Successful English Learning: Beyond Grammar and Vocabulary Rules 

3 Great Actionable Tips for Successful English Studies

Answers to the Quiz:

  1. Turkey
  2. Cornucopia
  3. Native Americans
  4. Pumpkin pie
  5. Gratitude
  6. Turkey
  7. Bread
  8. Sweet potato casserole
  9. Pilgrims
  10. Helium

Conclusion: The First Thanksgiving Celebration: A Jumpstart for Vocabulary Development

As we conclude our exploration of the first Thanksgiving celebration and its role as a jumpstart for your vocabulary development, I hope you’ve gained a deeper appreciation for this historic event and the linguistic treasures it holds.

We had an engaging and informative discussion during our Thanksgiving gathering, covering a wide array of fascinating aspects that make this holiday special.

We delved into the rich symbolism associated with Thanksgiving, uncovered intriguing and little-known facts, explored the delightful world of decorations that bring warmth to our homes, discovered the vibrant and meaningful colors associated with the season, savored the mouthwatering variety of foods that grace our tables, and exchanged warm greetings filled with gratitude and appreciation for the bonds that unite us during this joyous occasion.

But our journey doesn’t end here.

To put your newly acquired words and phrases into action, I’ve provided a set of practical exercises and activities that will not only reinforce your vocabulary but also make learning enjoyable.

Whether you’re talking about your first Thanksgiving celebration, sharing other Thanksgiving stories with friends and family, cooking up a festive meal, or simply reflecting on the spirit of gratitude, you now have the tools to enrich your language skills while celebrating this special holiday.

As you gather around the Thanksgiving table, remember that the holiday is not only about food but also about nourishing your mind with the richness of language.

So, embrace the opportunity, savor the words, and let Thanksgiving be a feast for your vocabulary as well.

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