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Five Kernels of Corn Story

Updated on November 22, 2014

Farmer with Corn Kernels

Farmer with Corn Kernels
Farmer with Corn Kernels | Source

Count Your Blessings at Thanksgiving

Several years ago, I discovered a moving story of the five kernels of corn when writing about Thanksgiving.

This story about counting blessings is a wonderful tradition to include with your family as you sit down to eat your holiday meal.

Read the Five Kernels of Corn story and then invite family and friends to share why each person is grateful at Thanksgiving.

Making the Five Kernels of Corn part of your Thanksgiving tradition as easily as opening up a can of corn to serve as part of the meal or including popcorn before the meal.

To do more about being grateful at Thanksgiving, include a Thanksgiving Bowl, Box or Wreath as visual prompts to help everyone remember to count blessings and give thanks at the Holiday set aside for expressing gratitude.

Learn more about this touching legend of the Five Kernels of Corn. You may view eating corn and eating corn at Thanksgiving a bit differently.

Image: Farmer Holds Kernels of Corn Photographic Poster Print by Stephen Alvarez available at Allposters.

Five Kernels of Corn

Dealing Out Five Kernels of Corn the First Winter

Jamestown Colonists Dealing Out the Last Kernels of Corn During the Starving Time, 1609-1610
Jamestown Colonists Dealing Out the Last Kernels of Corn During the Starving Time, 1609-1610 | Source

The Five Kernels of Corn Tradition

The story of the five kernels of corn is a touching tradition to start with your family.

The story goes that once Thanksgiving became a holiday, the Pilgrims would start their meal with five kernels of corn on their plate.

These five golden kernels represented all the pilgrims had to eat for the entire day during difficult winter. The corn that remained was planted in the spring.

At Thanksgiving the five kernels of corn was a reminder that many had nearly starved because of lack of food.

Each pilgrim would stand up and one by one pick up each kernel of corn and share five things they were thankful for on Thanksgiving.

This tradition has been passed on from the early times.

To this day, many families place five kernels of corn on each plate to honor and remember the suffering and spirit of Thanksgiving of our Pilgrim ancestors. They also take turns sharing five blessings for which they are grateful.

Story adapted from several online sources.

Image: Jamestown Colonists Dealing Out the Last Kernels of Corn available at Allposters.com.

Plate of Kernels Corn

Plate of Kernels Corn
Plate of Kernels Corn | Source

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Articles on the Five Kernels of Corn

Different articles with other versions of the Five Kernels of Corn story, legend and poem. The story is used by teachers when teaching children about the Pilgrims and also in Sunday Schools or Churches when teaching about Thanksgiving.

Vote on Five Kernels of Corn Story

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Five Kernels of Corn - A Myth?

The Mayflower and Her Passengers

The Mayflower and Her Passengers
The Mayflower and Her Passengers

Learn more about the Mayflower and the families that came over on this ship in this recommended book which is a collection of biographies on the Mayflower families.

 

Questions about the Five Kernels Story

Heather Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy and Captain of the New Hampshire Mayflower Society raises the question that the Five Kernels of Corn may be more myth (fabricated) than legend (historical basis).

She cites information from Jim Baker, a member of the Massachusetts Board of Assistants, who explains that the story never happened and that "there any reason to believe that the colonial leaders would actually issue a daily corn ration of five kernals, which was not enough to be of any nutritional benefit."

The myth may have grown out of an 1820 Forefathers' Day dinner, when five kernels of corn were placed on the plates as a reminder of "the time in 1623, when that was the proportion allowed to each individual on account of scarcity."

Caleb Johnson, author of The Mayflower and Her Passengers (above), who is a Mayflower descendant and a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants includes the Five Kernels of Corn as one of the myths about the Mayflower and Pilgrims:

  • This was a myth that apparently began in 1820. It has no foundation in historical fact.
  • There was a shortage of planted crops that year, and hunger was a problem, but their diet was supplemented by enough fish, shellfish, nuts, waterfowl, turkeys, deer, and other native flora and fauna, to keep everyone alive.

It is interesting to read that this story, which has become a great part of many people's Thanksgiving traditions and is used in many Thanksgiving sermons and as Teaching Units on Pilgrims and the Mayflower, may be more of a myth that a true legend.

Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation: Along with the full text of the Pilgrims' journals for their first year at Plymouth.
Of Plymouth Plantation: Along with the full text of the Pilgrims' journals for their first year at Plymouth.

In Of Plymout Plantation author Caleb H. Johnson shares the Pilgrims journals from their first year at Plymouth.

 

Thanksgiving Corn

Colorful Thanksgiving Corn
Colorful Thanksgiving Corn | Source

Watch Desperate Crossing

Desperate Crossing: Mayflower
Desperate Crossing: Mayflower

Watch the Untold Story of the Mayflower from the History Channel.

 

Nutrition in Five Kernels of Corn

From a nutrition perspective, there is not much nutrition in eating a ration of five kernels of corn.

It would have made more sense to hang on to the corn kernels to plant them in the spring, rather than doling them out to eat them.

You can learn more about the Pilgrims journey by reading one of the books Mayflower Story or watching the Desperate Crossing.

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.

No Americans have been more impoverished

than these who, nevertheless,

set aside a day of thanksgiving.

— H. U. Westermayer

Ways of Giving Thanks

Share Thanksgiving Flowers

Thanksgiving Flowers
Thanksgiving Flowers | Source

Give Thanks at Thanksgiving

For me, Thanksgiving is most about taking the time to stop for a moment from all the craziness and give thanks for what we have.

Since Thanksgiving is about traditions, there are many traditions, from simple to more complicated, that can be started to help your family remember to stop for a moment to express gratitude.

Serving a can of corn, frozen or popping popcorn after Thanksgiving are an easy ways to remember the Five Kernels of Corn story.

Other traditions that can be started at Thanksgiving include creating a Thanksgiving Bowl, Jar, Box or Wreath.

Using these prompts family and friends can voice or write down the reasons and the things for which they want to give thanks.

Corn at Thanksgiving Tradition

Indian Corn Print

Indian Corn Print
Indian Corn Print | Source

The First Thanksgiving Foods

Pilgrims would be surprised to see how we celebrate Thanksgiving these days.

In place of a typical modern Thanksgiving feast of turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, Pilgrims would have eaten what was available to them.

At the First Thanksgiving they would have eaten duck, goose, swan, venison, fish, lobster, mussels, eel and clams; pumpkin, squash, corn and cabbage; red and white grapes; red and black plums; berries and dried fruit.

The Print of the "Jamestown Colonists Dealing Out the Last Kernels of Corn During the Starving Time, 1609-1610" depicts the story of the Five Kernels.

Canvas Print of Indian Corn available on Amazon

First Thanksgiving on Wikipedia

Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, presently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It did not become a federal holiday until 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God,[1] and is still celebrated as such by many families, but it is now also considered a secular holiday as well.[2][3]

Most Americans celebrate by gathering at home with family or friends for a holiday feast. Though the holiday's origins can be traced to harvest festivals which have been celebrated in many cultures since ancient times, the American holiday is tied to the deliverance of the English settlers by Native Americans after the harsh winter at Plymouth, Massachusetts and that event has become the pre-eminent foundation story for English North America.

The First Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God and the Native Americans for helping the pilgrims survive the brutal winter.

read the rest of the Wikipedia article

Corn Kernals Giclee Poster

12 X 18 Stretched Canvas Poster Indian Corn
12 X 18 Stretched Canvas Poster Indian Corn

This Giclee poster print of different types of Indian corn.

Size: 12 X 18 inches

 

Eating Corn on Thanksgiving

Corn on the Cob

Eating Corn on the Cob
Eating Corn on the Cob | Source

Include Corn on Thanksgiving

Whether you believe in the story of the Five Kernals, or just want to include corn as as a parable or a remembrance for giving thanks, there are several ways to include corn as part of a Thanksgiving meal.

  1. Corn on the Cob
  2. Fresh Corn cut off the cob
  3. Can or Frozen Corn
  4. Popcorn
  5. Decorative Dried Corn Cobs

Some people just open up a can of corn, heat it up and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner.

Even our tradition of decorating with dried corn cobs could be traced back to this Thanksgiving story.

Corn Holders

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Non Slip Corn Holders, Set of 8 - Yellow
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Non Slip Corn Holders, Set of 8 - Yellow

Corn holders come in very handy for those who like eating their corn on the cob.

 

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Corn Zipper

Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper
Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper

Use the corn zipper to help get the kernels off of the cob for easy serving.

 

Popcorn for Thanksgiving

Popped Corn

Popcorn
Popcorn | Source

Air Popcorn Popper in the Amazon Spotlight

Presto 04820 PopLite Hot Air Popper
Presto 04820 PopLite Hot Air Popper

This Air Popper is the #1 Best Selling on Amazon. Makes up to 18 cups in less than 2-1/2-minutes.

 

Popcorn for Thanksgiving

A fun and healthy way to include corn for Thanksgiving is to add in popcorn as part of the festivities.

Since popcorn is a healthy, fiber-rich snack, popping some corn to have as a snack while all of the Thanksgiving cooking is going on might be a really good way to curb the appetite of those waiting to dive into Thanksgiving dinner.

Make it more festive by getting some colorful gourmet popcorn for popping and pop it up quickly in an Electric air popper.

Electric popper uses hot air to make a healthy, low-calorie treat.

The Air Popper is faster, healthier and much more economical than pre-packaged microwave bag popcorn.

Colorful Popcorn

India Tree Paloma de Colores(Mixed) PopCorn, 16 oz (Pack of 4)
India Tree Paloma de Colores(Mixed) PopCorn, 16 oz (Pack of 4)

Touted as being America's first great snack food this mixed popcorn is like popping colorful Indian corn.

Note that the popped popcorn will be white.

 

Planting Corn

Sweet Corn Print

Sweet Corn Print
Sweet Corn Print | Source

Plant Corn as Part of the Three Sisters

If after reading about the Five Kernels of Corn myth you are inspired to plant your own corn, you may want to take a look at companion planting, to help your corn grow.

In Native American legends the three sisters can only grow and thrive if they are planted together. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans.

These legends have some truth behind the stories, planting the three plants together allows the corn, beans and squash to support the growth of each other and work together in a process called companion planting.

Each plant contributes something to help the others to grow, creating a beneficial relationship that allows the plants to grow better together than each would grow alone.

Canvas Print of Sweet Corn available on Amazon

Sweet Corn Print

"Sweet Corn" Print (Canvas 12x18)
"Sweet Corn" Print (Canvas 12x18)

A canvas print of sweet corn.

Size: 12 x 18 inches

 

History of the "Five Kernels of Corn" Page

Lens of the Day November 4, 2009

Lens of the Day November 4, 2009
Lens of the Day November 4, 2009 | Source

A Page Written Initially to Benefit Kiva

This page was originally written for one of the charity challenges on the Squidoo website.

The story of the Five Kernels worked well as a concept for the Squidoo Thanksgiving Cookoff for Charity challenge in 2009. This page was chosen as a Lens of the Day during the first few days of the Squidoo Charity Cookoff.

The charity that I chose was Kiva, the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website that connects online lenders to entrepreneurs across the globe.

By being one of the winning lenses during the 2009 Official Squidoo Thanksgiving Cookoff (for Charity) Squidoo donated $1000 to Kiva for my non-recipe lens accepted into the challenge. I was very grateful that Kiva will be getting a sizable donation from Squidoo because of my efforts on writing this page.

Being able to make a difference for on Kiva for as little as $25 is a little like making a difference with and being grateful for five kernels of corn.

Over the duration of the time that this page was on Squidoo, the Kiva charity continued to earn contributions from the story of the Five Kernels of Corn.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Share your gratefuls in the comment section below.


Comments on the Five Kernels of Corn

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    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 3 years ago from Northern California

      @Squirt2Squidoo: Thank you for your comments.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 3 years ago from Northern California

      @smine27: It makes for a fun Thanksgiving tradition.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      What a heartwarming story. Thank you for sharing.

    • Squirt2Squidoo profile image

      Squirt2Squidoo 3 years ago

      This was a very thought out and well put together lens. I enjoyed it. Thank-you for sharing!

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @Countryluthier: Glad to hear the story inspires you to be thankful.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 4 years ago from Virginia

      What a fascinating story. Gives me even more thankfulness reasons on top of all I already have. Blessed by COUNTRYLUTHIER

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @Jefff Molnar: One of my favorite Thanksgiving stories.

    • Jefff Molnar profile image

      Jeff Molnar 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Awesome lens.

    • profile image

      Anderotin 5 years ago

      That's what I do, but I will not wait for Thanksgiving. Thanks for the tip.

    • LDWorld profile image

      LDWorld 5 years ago

      Very interesting and a great job for sure, thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am so doing this next Thanksgiving - I love little traditions like this that don't require much but leave a lasting impression and are so meaningful. Thanks for sharing and this is a great lens!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am so doing this next Thanksgiving - I love little traditions like this that don't require much but leave a lasting impression and are so meaningful. Thanks for sharing and this is a great lens!!!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Beautiful Thanksgiving Lens and I love the story of the Five Kernels of Corn.

    • Srena44 profile image

      Srena44 5 years ago

      great lens

    • profile image

      S_Timbrell 5 years ago

      Great lens and so appropriate today on Thanksgiving!

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      Legend, myth or true story matters not to me so much as the value of the story and what it represents. We do need to be thankful on Thanksgiving, and I try to be thankful each day. As for corn: in southeastern Pennsylvania's Berks county, a dried and rehydrated corn pudding made from "Cope's Corn" is traditional for Thanksgiving dinner. When we lived in Massachusetts, corn bread was part of the meal. Blessed ...

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image

      Sheila 5 years ago from Omaha, NE

      You are blessed by a Squid Angel who has never heard this nice story before!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Swam back around through the Squidoo Sea to bless this lens!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      One should have a plate with five uncooked kernels of corn in a prominent place all year long. It would be a nice daily reminder to say thanks. This is a beautiful story regardless of its origins. Thank you for sharing it to bless our day. Appreciated!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I think that this is a really great story to make us appreciate what we have

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