Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays as I love to cook. And I love to eat even more. However I have found there to be a lot of down time surrounding the big meal. Whether you are traveling out of town, waiting for the bird to roast, or simply trying to hide from your in-laws, I have got you covered. I put together this list of the best podcasts to listen to in order to keep you entertained and enlightened this holiday season.
These shows cover everything from the history of Thanksgiving to life in colonial times, as well as the clearing up some myths about who actually ‘discovered’ America and how Native Americans really felt about the Pilgrims and settlers. You won’t want to miss these juicy stories. So go ahead! Get your history on, and be sure to leave room for pie! Happy Holidays everyone.
This podcast is a great one for learning the ins and outs of American History. It is the perfect way to start this list. The hosts uncover the stories behind today’s Thanksgiving traditions like football and parades, as well as the beginnings of the national holiday itself. Spoiler: it did not actually begin in the 1600s and the Pilgrims and Native Americans did not celebrate the way we do today. They go into the details of why and how this national day of thanks came to be and who we have to thank for the ritual of a big ol’ turkey dinner at the end of each November. As every Backstory episode, this one is filled is input from experts, historians and Butterball professionals. Both informative and entertaining, it is the perfect way to kick off the holiday.
This episode goes farther back in history than any other episode on this list, but I wanted to include it because it is still relevant to the settling of America. Thinking Sideways is a show that covers unsolved mysteries from both the present and, like this one, the past. Here they go way before the European voyagers even knew about the ‘New World’. Instead the crew focuses on where the Native Americans originally came from, how they got there and why they made the long and harrowing journey it entailed. It is well researched and a good puzzle for the whole family to ponder over while fighting your tryptophan comas.
I wanted to include not only Thanksgiving centered stories, but also tales of what life was actually like for the early European settlers of America. This episode of Dig: A History Podcast does just that. The four historian hosts focus on one of the largest segments of early Pilgrims, the Puritans. They detail how Puritans dealt with the topic of sexuality. Some of it may surprise you. Were they the stern, pious people they are made out to be in American history classes? Sort of. Here you will get the stories not included in our history books. After hearing them you may see the Puritan community in a different light.
Okay so I know the story of Pocahontas is not exactly related to the story of Thanksgiving, but it is one of the most famous tales from the same time period. It is also one of the most inaccurately told ones. It’s time to clear the air and get to the bottom of what really happened with Pocahontas and John Smith. Both were real people, but were they really in love? Did she really protest his death? Could she really hear the colors of the wind? Listen to this one to find out the answers to these and so many more questions brought about from this peculiar Native American princess.
Here we have another podcast focusing on the journey to America. This one also goes back before the English settlers, but not quite so far this time. The host covers the “1421 thesis.” This is the idea that the Chinese chartered trips to South America nearly 100 years before Europeans ever did. As with all Our Fake History episodes, facts are presented from both sides of the story and historical references are uncovered to help shed light on the truth about who really ‘discovered’ these American lands. With a show so well researched and a host so likeable, this is one you can’t miss.
Talk about the historical podcast! Iroquois History and Legends goes deep into the often untold Native American history surrounding the settling of the ‘New World’ by Europeans. It covers not only the Iroquois but also the most prominent tribes who originally managed the land of New England. The show’s episodes are sequential so if you want a really detailed timeline I suggest starting from the beginning. However here I am highlighting the interesting story of New Sweden as it is not one I had heard before. It also coincides with the early Pilgrim settlers around the 1660s. The story of the northern settlements helps expand our understanding of colonial life and its impact on the Five Nations who were here so many years before.
If you don’t listen to The Dollop, you are missing out. I promise you this. Dave tells outrageous, often untold stories from American history to his co-host Gareth who reacts accordingly. No one can recount history quite like these two comedians. They are not PG but will have you rolling with laughter. This episode covers how early Americans approached and dealt with the dental issues that plagued them. They review how crude tooth care and shotty denture attempts brought pain and misery to colonists of all classes. After listening to this episode, you will have much appreciation for modern dentistry and those pearly whites that helped you tear the meat off your turkey leg at dinner. You may want to follow up with some mouth wash.
The guys also cover the story of Thanksgiving in Episode 35: Thanksgiving. I initially included it here, but I didn’t want this list to be a bunch of re-tellings of the same thing. I chose Colonial Teeth instead as I think it brings more light on early American life. The Thanksgiving one is just as funny and informative though, so I am recommending it as a bonus episode in case you need just a little bit more entertainment and comedy.
Now I couldn’t do this Thanksgiving theme without including at least one recount of what actually went down in the settling of North America, and I don’t believe you will find a better version than this. Our final episode(s) are by far the longest and most detailed of the list. I saved them for last because you will want to dedicate some serious listening time to this story. From the first settlers and their reasons for a pilgrimage to the bloody King Philip’s War, it is packed with information that you won’t want to miss. The podcast highlights how differences in Europeans and Native Americans both helped and hindered both sides. After listening to this one, your historical views of Thanksgiving will come full circle. A great way to cap off your Thanksgiving holiday.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for reading my list of recommendations. I hope it will get you through whatever down time you may face this upcoming Thanksgiving, or whenever you feel like learning about the settling of the ‘New World’, Native American history or life in the 1600s. I also need to thank to podcast hosts and creators. They dedicate their time and talents into these shows, and without them I would have nothing to occupy my time or share with you! Click on the links to their website below to learn more about each show.
- Thinking Sideways
- Dig: A History Podcast
- Based on a True Story
- Our Fake History
- Iroquois History and Legends
- The Dollop
- Inward Empire
Are these the best podcasts to listen to this Thanksgiving? Got one you would like to add to the list?
If you have a historical podcast you think I should add, I want to hear about it. Let me know by leaving a comment here. You can also fill out the form on my Contact page. I can’t wait to hear from you!