This Thursday, November 28th is Thanksgiving Day! Of course, we all know about getting together with loved ones feasting on turkey, stuffing, gravy, watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (or at least I do), and the food coma that ensues but do we know the quirky things about Thanksgiving? Well, brace yourself! Here’s some Thanksgiving trivia to tide you over till this upcoming holiday.
- The modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is commonly traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts.
- Potatoes were not part of the first Thanksgiving. Irish immigrants had not yet brought them to North America.
- The use of the turkey in the USA for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln’s nationalization of the holiday in 1863. Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that no “Citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day,” and many of the Founding Fathers (particularly Benjamin Franklin) had high regard for the wild turkey as an American icon, but turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By 1857, turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England.
- After the first Thanksgiving, the observance was sporadic and almost forgotten until the early 1800s. It was usually celebrated in late September or October.
- Thanksgiving Day did not become an official holiday until Northerners dominated the federal government. While sectional tensions prevailed in the mid-19th century, the editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, Sarah Josepha Hale, campaigned for a national Thanksgiving Day to promote unity. She finally won the support of President Abraham Lincoln. The holiday was annually proclaimed by every president thereafter, and the date chosen, with few exceptions, was the last Thursday in November.
- In 1941, Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday and set the date as the fourth Thursday in November.
- In the early 1960s, “Black Friday” came to be used in Philadelphia to describe the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush.
- Each Thanksgiving, the President “pardons” a hand-selected turkey, sparing the bird from someone’s dinner table and ensuring the rest of its days are spent living. President George H.W. Bush was the first president to actually offer a turkey pardon in 1989.
Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving everyone!