On the fourth Thursday in November, families across the U.S. gather to feast, watch football, and begin the Holiday season. Instead of waiting for Grandma Lucy to ask if you’re dating anyone yet (we all have that relative) pull out some of these fun trivia facts to pass around the Thanksgiving table (and avoid those awkward yearly conversations everyone hates).
1. The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted 3 days.
Yep, after a difficult harvest in 1621 AD, the pilgrims celebrated their success by filling up on a three-day feast with their Native American mentors, the Wampanoag Indians. The feast consisted of lobster, onions, dried fruit, vegetables, rabbit and chicken but no turkey, no mashed potatoes, no stuffing and no pumpkin pies. We didn’t add Turkey to Thanksgiving meals until after the Civil War when Turkey suddenly became plentiful in New England.
2. Presidents and Thanksgiving: Official Thanksgiving Day
It wasn't until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln officially decided Thanksgiving would take place on the last Thursday of November. Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, after campaigning for 17 years for this to happen. Before this proclamation, US Presidents would issue the Thanksgiving date each specific year.
3. Presidential pardon of a turkey
Starting in 1947 with President Truman, the president of the U.S. pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, President Obama pardoned Courage, a 45 pound turkey, who has flown to Disneyland and served as Grand Marshall of the park’s Thanksgiving parade.
4. There are three towns in the United States that are named after the turkey:
Turkey, Texas; Turkey Creek, Louisiana and Turkey, North Carolina.
5. Congress didn't make Thanksgiving official until the 1940s!
Yes, American's have been celebrating Thanksgiving longer than Independence Day, and President Lincoln officially decided when it would be celebrated but it wasn't until 1941 that congress finally caught up, declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday.
6. The United States is not the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving.
Germany celebrates a good year and fortune with Erntedankfest (The Harvest Festival) in the early part of October. Canada celebrates “Candian Thanksgiving” mid-October with l’Action de grace which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year. And Japan celebrates “Kinro Kansha no Hi” on November 23 where they celebrate hard work and commununity involvement.
7. Thanksgiving is the reason for the first TV dinners!
In 1953 Swanson has 260 tons of extra turkey that a salesman told them they should package it in trays with other sides to eat for later- and thus the first TV dinner was created!
Want to know more? Learn about American holidays and history by taking American Heritage online from BYUIS.