How Honey Helped Create The First Thanksgiving Feast
While many elements of our traditional Thanksgiving meal differ from those that were on the menu for the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, the bounty of the New England harvest is a universal theme. The desire to share hospitality and good fortune with others and give thanks for abundance is also transcendent throughout the centuries.
When the pilgrims landed in present day Massachusetts in the fall of 1620, they were unaware of what native foodstuffs were safe and nutritious to eat. Furthermore, these European settlers were unsure of how to cultivate the European crops they brought along in the form of seeds in the New World. Fortunately for the settlers, the Wampanoag tribe shared its knowledge and expertise with them. In return for their generosity, the Pilgrim leader, Governor William Bradford, invited the Wampanoags to a three-day feast, which would later be known as the first Thanksgiving.
At this celebration, there is a record that wild fowl, such as geese, ducks, pigeons and turkeys constituted a significant portion of the meal in addition to seafood such as lobster, clams, mussels and eels. Other food in available included squashes (pumpkins, too!), beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese. For sweeteners, the pilgrims had maple syrup and honey available. While maple syrup was a New World treat they learned about from the Wampanoags, the early settlers had the foresight to bring honey bees along with them when they left the Old World.
Several centuries would pass before the idea of a national day to give thanks resurfaced in America’s consciousness. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a 'Thanksgiving Proclamation' on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving. He was encouraged to do so by Sarah Josepha Hale, an American magazine editor, persuaded Abraham Lincoln. (By the way, she is also the author of the beloved nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb"). In 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would take place on November 23rd, not November 30th, as an incentive to encourage the country’s economic growth and extend the Christmas shopping season. A few years later, Congress passed a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
This Thanksgiving, consider giving the gift of honey to your Thanksgiving host. Honey is a miracle of nature that all can be grateful for whether it is used baking, grilling, sweetening, moisturizing or healing.
Wondering what to bring? Try our American Heritage Collection Gift Box Sets in either the 3oz or 12oz sizes. It’s the perfect gift for any occasion. Order a trio of artisanal honeys from our American Heritage Collection and have it arrive handsomely presented in our beautiful gift box sets. The American Heritage Collection features artisanal blends of honey that recreate the sweetness that sustained Americans as they explored and settled the United States.
Or select one of our flutes of varietal honeys: Tulip Poplar, Tupelo, or Orange Blossom. These elegant bottles make lovely gifts and allow the recipient to savor the color, flavor and aroma of a particular type of honey representing a specific nectar source of flowers.