Before we talk about Thanksgiving, let’s look at the history of the first people in the U.S. and this will lead to understanding Thanksgiving.

The First People in the U.S.

The first people to inhabit (live in) the land that is now the United States of America were American Indians/Native Americans/First Peoples. The Native American Indians first came to the land of the U.S. thousands of years ago.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus accidentally sailed to the Americas. Columbus was an Italian explorer. He was trying to find the western route or direction from Spain to India. Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the Americas.

In 1560, a Spanish colony (group of people who lived in a new place) was founded (established) in Florida; people from Spain settled (lived) in Florida.

In 1607, an English colony was founded in Jamestown, Virginia.

In 1620, a group of about 100 people from England, landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The group of people was called the Pilgrims, and their boat was called the Mayflower. They were planning to go to Virginia but landed in Massachusetts. The Pilgrims were fleeing (escaping) religious persecution.


Thanksgiving is a U.S. holiday that celebrates and remembers the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. The Pilgrims were a group of about 100 people that left England because of religious persecution. The Pilgrims sailed to the New World (United States of America) in their boat called the Mayflower. They planned to go to Virginia, but they went off course and landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

The Pilgrims were starving and did not know how to grow food in the new land. A group of Native American Indians called the Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow food.

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims held (had) a three-day feast called Thanksgiving and invited the Native American Indians to give thanks for a successful harvest with plenty (lots) of food to survive the winter.

The Pilgrims and the Native Americans did not share the same religious views, but they celebrated the harvest they had. Thanksgiving is an interfaith holiday. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we have.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the third Thursday of November. It is a federal holiday; all banks, schools, and federal offices are closed. Most businesses are closed for Thanksgiving.

New York City and many other cities have big parades on Thanksgiving. There are many college and professional football games played on Thanksgiving.