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10 Interesting Facts about Thanksgiving: How Well Do You Know the History and Traditions?

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“Ever wondered about the Facts about Thanksgiving? Why is it celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November? What’s on the menu, and how has this tradition evolved over time? Dive into the intriguing history now!”

If you are curious about these questions, you are in the right place. In this blog, we will take a look at everything you need to know about Thanksgiving Day, one of the most important and popular holidays in the United States.

We will also share with you some interesting and surprising facts about Thanksgiving that you may not have heard before. So, let’s get started!

What is Thanksgiving and why it is celebrated and when and where?

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and Canada that celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

It is a time to express gratitude to God, family, friends, and the community for all the good things in life. It is also a time to enjoy a feast of traditional foods, such as turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and more.

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada.

The date of Thanksgiving varies from year to year, but it always falls between November 22 and November 28 in the United States and between October 8 and October 14 in Canada. The motto behind Thanksgiving is to give thanks for the bounty of nature and the generosity of others.

History of Thanksgiving Day

The history of Thanksgiving Day goes back to the early days of European colonization in North America.

The first Thanksgiving is widely believed to have taken place in 1621, when the Pilgrims, who had arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts the previous year, shared a harvest feast with the Wampanoag Native Americans, who had helped them survive the harsh winter.

The feast lasted for three days and included deer, corn, shellfish, and wildfowl. However, this was not the first time that Europeans and Native Americans had celebrated the harvest together.

In fact, some historians argue that the first Thanksgiving in North America was actually held in 1565, when Spanish settlers in St. Augustine, Florida, shared a meal with the local Timucua people to mark their arrival and give thanks to God.

The tradition of Thanksgiving continued in various forms and dates throughout the colonies and states, but it was not until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the last Thursday of November.

He did so in the midst of the Civil War, hoping to heal the wounds of the nation and restore peace and harmony.

Since then, Thanksgiving Day has been an annual federal holiday in the United States, except for two years during the Great Depression, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it to the third Thursday of November to boost the economy by extending the Christmas shopping season.

However, this change was unpopular and confusing, and in 1941, Congress passed a law to fix the date of Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November.

In Canada, the history of Thanksgiving is different from that of the United States. The first Canadian Thanksgiving is said to have taken place in 1578 when English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew held a ceremony of thanks in Newfoundland for their safe arrival and their discovery of a Northwest Passage to Asia.

Later, French settlers in Quebec also celebrated the harvest with feasts and prayers. After the American Revolution, many Loyalists who remained loyal to Britain moved to Canada and brought with them the customs of Thanksgiving.

In 1879, the Canadian Parliament declared a national day of thanksgiving to be held on November 6, but the date was changed several times over the years, until 1957, when it was fixed to the second Monday of October.

10 Facts about Thanksgiving Day

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Here are 10 facts about Thanksgiving Day that you may find interesting and surprising. I have also provided the links from where I got the data for the facts.

  • The first Thanksgiving did not include turkey.

Although turkey is the centerpiece of most modern Thanksgiving tables, there is no evidence that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag ate turkey at their feast.

The only meat that is mentioned in the historical accounts is venison, which the Wampanoag brought as a gift.

The Pilgrims may have also hunted wild fowl, such as ducks, geese, or swans, but not necessarily turkey.

  • The first Thanksgiving was not a one-day event.

The feast that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag shared in 1621 lasted for three days, according to the eyewitness account of Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrim leaders. The celebration included not only eating, but also games, sports, and entertainment.

The Wampanoag demonstrated their skills in archery and running, while the Pilgrims showed off their muskets and cannons. The two groups also sang and danced together, and exchanged gifts and stories.

  • The first Thanksgiving in 1621 was not called Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag did not use this term to describe their feast, which was more of a harvest celebration than a religious observance.

The word Thanksgiving was first used in 1623 when the Pilgrims held a day of prayer and fasting to thank God for ending a drought that threatened their crops.

  • The first Thanksgiving did not include potatoes, cranberries, or pumpkin pie.

These foods are also staples of the contemporary Thanksgiving menu, but they were not part of the original feast. Potatoes were not yet widely cultivated in North America, and cranberries were too tart to eat without sugar, which was scarce.

Pumpkin pie was not invented until the late 17th century, and the Pilgrims did not have ovens to bake it. They may have eaten boiled pumpkin with honey or molasses, but that’s not the same as pie.

  • The First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Featured Central Park Zoo Animals.

The parade, which was originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, was held in 1924 and featured live animals from the Central Park Zoo, such as bears, monkeys, and elephants.

However, the animals scared the children too much, so Macy’s decided to replace them with giant, inflatable versions of popular characters in 1927.

  • Sarah Josepha Hale was actually the mother of Thanksgiving.

Hale was a magazine editor and writer who campaigned for decades to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

She wrote letters to several presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, who finally agreed to her request in 1863. Hale is also credited with writing the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

  • “Jingle Bells” Was Originally A Thanksgiving Day Song.

The song, which was originally titled “The One Horse Open Sleigh,” was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1850 for his Thanksgiving Sunday school class.

It was published in 1857 and became associated with Christmas in the 1860s and 1870s. The song also has some lesser-known verses that describe picking up girls, drag racing on snow, and a high-speed crash.

  • President George Bush Was The First To Pardon Turkey.

Although some presidents before him spared some turkeys from being eaten, Bush was the first to officially pardon a turkey in 1989.

He said: “Let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy.

He’s granted a presidential pardon as of right now.” Since then, the presidential turkey pardon has become an annual tradition.

  • The Wednesday Before Thanksgiving Is Known As “Drinksgiving.”

The night before Thanksgiving, also known as Blackout Wednesday or Black Wednesday, has become a popular party night for many people, especially college students who return home for the holiday.

The term “Drinksgiving” was coined in 2007 and refers to binge drinking on this night. However, this practice can present many dangers to health and safety, such as alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, and addiction.

  • Thanksgiving was once celebrated on the third Thursday in November.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the second to the last Thursday, in order to extend the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy.

However, many people opposed this change and some states refused to follow it. The confusion was resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November

Conclusion

Thanksgiving Day stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of gratitude, reminding us to cherish the simple joys, appreciate the people who enrich our lives, and reflect on the blessings that surround us.

As we gather with loved ones, indulge in culinary delights, and engage in cherished traditions, let us carry the essence of gratitude into our everyday lives, making each moment a celebration of life’s blessings.

If you have any more interesting or rare-known facts about Thanksgiving Day and its history, feel free to share them with us.

Tejas Tahmankar

ALSO READ: 15 Lesser-Known Facts about the History of US Currency

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