News & Press

Plimoth Patuxet Museums Marks 400th Anniversary of Thanksgiving with New Exhibit

One of America’s quintessential holidays has its roots in Plymouth’s 1621 harvest feast

Plimoth Patuxet Museums is opening an exhibit this fall focused on the origins of one of America’s quintessential holidays – Thanksgiving. The exhibit, We Gather Together: Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and the Making of an American Holiday, will open its doors to visitors on Sept. 25.

Each year, millions of Americans are reminded of Plymouth’s place in the Nation’s story when they gather to gratefully celebrate the harvest season with family and friends. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the harvest feast called the First Thanksgiving. For the original participants – the Indigenous Pokanoket people and English colonists – a successful harvest was reason enough to rejoice. On land Indigenous people call Patuxet, the great sachem of the Pokanoket, Ousamequin (Massasoit) and 90 of his men, shared in three days of feasting and entertainment with the English. Patuxet/Plymouth is the place where ancient traditions of gratitude in both Indigenous and European cultures merged in the autumn of 1621, and a new holiday of gathering and giving thanks for the countless blessings in life began. We Gather Together will explore the ancient and deeply human expression of gratitude that is the bedrock of this national holiday.

“From time immemorial, people around the world have celebrated the harvest,” said Ellie Donovan, Executive Director of Plimoth Patuxet Museums. “As part of our educational mission, we’re pleased to present this new exhibit that explores the history of Thanksgiving since 1621 and provides food for thought.”

The exhibit explores the relationship between the Indigenous people and English colonists to better understand the events that led to the First Thanksgiving. Rarely seen artifacts from Plimoth Patuxet’s collection, and artistic representation throughout the centuries will chart the ways in which the New England tradition of Thanksgiving grew and emerged as a national holiday during the 19th century.

The exhibit was made possible through the generous support of sponsors, including the Town of Plymouth Promotions Fund, Rockland Trust, Pathstone, RSM and Coca-Cola Northeast. Yankee Publishing is the media partner.

About Plimoth Patuxet

Through powerful personal experiences of history, Plimoth Patuxet tells the stories of the Wampanoag people and the English colonists who created a new society – in collaboration and in conflict – in the 1600s. Major exhibits include Mayflower, the historic Patuxet Wampanoag Homesite, the 17th-Century English Village, and the Plimoth Grist Mill. Located less than an hour’s drive south of Boston, and 15 minutes north of Cape Cod, the Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. A private, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational institution, the Museum is supported by admission fees, donations, memberships, and revenue from a variety of educational programming, dining and gift shops. Plimoth Patuxet is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, private foundations, corporations, and local businesses. For more information, visit Follow the Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and Mayflower on Facebook and Instagram.