10 Ways The History Of Thanksgiving Is Nothing Like You Imagined

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9. The Pilgrims Ate Lobster, Swan, And Seal

Photo credit: Jennie A. Brownscombe

The first Thanksgiving in what would become the United States didn’t happen until 1621, when the Pilgrims at Plymouth, thrilled that they’d had a good harvest, invited their neighbors from the Wampanoag tribe to join them for a feast. They didn’t exactly serve what you’d expect, though.

The Pilgrims put pretty well everything they could find on the table. We don’t know exactly what that entails, but they definitely couldn’t have served pie, stuffing, or cranberry sauce. For the most part, they just ate meat—which probably included turkey, but that would’ve just been a side dish. Instead, most of the table was probably filled with venison and pigeons.

There were some stranger choices, too. Swans are believed to have been caught, killed, cooked, and put on the table. Seafood was abundant. They ate lobster, clams, and they may even have eaten seal.[2] So, if you want a truly traditional Thanksgiving this year, skip the turkey and plop a full swan on your family’s table.

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