essential vocabulary for talking about thanksgiving today & the first thanksgiving

happy thanksgiving 🙂

animated pilgrims and native americans sharing a thanksgiving dinner--vocabulario en inglés


as the name indicates, today is a day for giving thanks; being thankful (appreciative, grateful). and eating a big meal which almost always includes a turkey.

what americans refer to as the first thanksgiving took place (happened) in 1621. members of plymouth colony celebrated, feasted (ate big meals) and gave thanks with members of the wampanoag tribe. the plymouth colonists, often called pilgrims (religious travellers), were english immigrants and the wampanoag helped them survive their first year in america.

a painting of the first thanksgiving at plymouth rock
the first thanksgiving at plymouth by jennie brownscombe. it was painted in 1914, 300 years after the first thanksgiving. (wikipedia)

in this brief video description of thanksgiving traditions, news anchor katie couric says

maybe one of the things to be thankful for is that we weren’t there for the first thanksgiving

couric’s comment is mostly motivated by the differences between the menu in 1621 and what we consider a traditional thanksgiving dinner today.

turkey mashed potatoes gravy thanksgiving
turkey, mashed potatoes and (meat sauce) []

nowadays we chow down on (eat with vigor,enthusiasm) turkey and mashed potatoes. but as couric observes at :35, in 1621

there were no ovens for baking

, it must be followed by the -ing form of the verb bake, baking.

canabis pumpkin pie thanksgiving
a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream (

because there were no ovens for baking in 1621, pumpkin pie, the standard thanksgiving dinner (sweet dish served at the end of the meal), could not be prepared.

even more surprising, at :17 couric relates

the first turkey day back in 1621 may not have had turkey at all

turkey is such a staple (integral part) of thanksgiving that the holiday is frequently called turkey day. may not have had is a hypothetical phrase (also called third conditional). in reality, nobody is completely sure what the menu was, but at all emphasizes the possibility that there was absolutely no turkey.

partridge thanksgiving
the first turkey day might have actually been a partridge day. (

(instead of) turkey, early settlers might have dined on (eaten) cod (fish), partridge or some other fowl (bird), deer, or most surprisingly seal at the first thanksgiving.

seal thanksgiving
nobody would think it was cool if u served seal for thanksgiving dinner today. (wikipedia)

at :30 couric calls the english immigrants who established themselves in plymouth settlers, a name that is often used to describe europeans who arrived to live permanently in america during colonial times. the action has many other applications.

tom turkey in the macy's parade vocabulario en inglés
tom turkey, a famous float in the macy’s parade (everythingnyc)

finally, couric mentions two other popular thanksgiving activities that were not part of the 1621 celebration: parades (a public celebration in the form of a march) and football (the american version, not soccer).

lamar jackson of the baltimore ravens stiff arms tj watt of the pittsburgh steelers vocabulario en inglés
the baltimore ravens and pittsburgh steelers were scheduled to play a football game on thanksgiving night this year, but it was rescheduled due to covid issues. (espn)

the english practice extra for this post contains definitions for remissbring upstaple, pilgrim, mashed potatoes, gravy and parade are defined above and also appear in the video.

in addition, listen for examples of the has got structure (:05) and settler (:32) that appear elsewhere on finally, at the hands of (:31 ) indicates that european settlers were responsible for the genocide of native americans.

what else do u know about thanksgiving? do u celebrate a similar holiday where u live?  share your answers under leave a reply


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