Some Interesting Facts about Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-snoopy-wallpaperHappy Thanksgiving!  There are so many things to be thankful for this year:  health, family, sunshine, new friends, old friends, people who stay in touch over the miles, a good truck and a warm RV.  But, instead of talking about all these blessings, I thought I would help you out with some interesting facts about Thanksgiving.  This way you can go armed to your Thanksgiving festivities with some neutral topics to discuss!

This blog is not original material.  I searched all over the internet for these facts.  But most of them came from one source.  The History Channel put together a Thanksgiving page that is interesting, informative, and has lots and lots (really – so much!) of information about any Thanksgiving topic you might want to introduce.  Check it out here.

On to the interesting facts:

What is the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans?  And which ones came over on the Mayflower?  The Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  They were separatists who wanted a new religion separate from the Church of England.  The Puritans wanted to reform, or purify, the Church of England instead of separate from it.  The Church of England responded by persecuting both sects.  The Puritans settled in Salem, Massachusetts.  Eventually the other New England states would be formed as Puritans and Pilgrims disagreed with each other and separated some more.

firstthanksgivingbigHow long did it take the Pilgrims to reach Massachusetts and what did they do when they got there?  The 102 Pilgrims on the Mayflower sailed from England in September, 1620.  It took them 66 days to reach “New England” which meant they got to Massachusetts in November.  They were planning on settling in the Hudson Bay area, but were blown off course by storms.  Because they landed in Massachusetts in the winter, they spent the first year building homes and living on the Mayflower.  Half of them died of starvation and sickness that first winter.  The Wampanoags were very helpful in teaching them how to farm in the spring.  The Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving in 1621 because they were so thankful for an abundant harvest that would see them through their second winter.

Sarah Hale
Sarah Hale

When was Thanksgiving established as a national holiday?  Although there were Thanksgiving days celebrated nationally (for example in 1777 and 1789), the states had their own days of thanksgiving throughout the year.  Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, started a one-woman campaign to establish a national day of Thanksgiving.  She worked on this project for thirty years until President Lincoln established a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November in 1863.  The date still moved around a little until Congress set the date as the fourth Thursday of November in 1941.

o-thanksgiving-turkey-facebookWhy do we eat what we eat on Thanksgiving?  Although the Pilgrims ate wild turkey, they probably had venison and goose on the first Thanksgiving day.  Over time, however, turkeys were served at family gatherings because they were big enough to serve a large family.  When William Bradford‘s journal was reprinted in 1856, Sarah Hale seized on the items listed in the journal as good things to eat on Thanksgiving.  She published many of the recipes we use today in  “The Ladies Magazine,” citing them as traditional Thanksgiving foods.

bears-lions-1936-program-1966057027When did some of the Thanksgiving traditions start?  The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade started in 1924.  Today 3.4 million people watch it live in New York City and 65 million watch a broadcast of it.  Football on Thanksgiving started with the Detroit Lions playing the Chicago Bears in 1934.  This was the first nationally broadcast football game (broadcast on radio).  The Dallas Cowboys decided to get in on the Thanksgiving tradition when the American Football League started in 1960.  When the NFL network began broadcasting, they added a third Thanksgiving game.  Today the Detroit Lions will play the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys will play the Washington Redskins, and the NFL network game will be the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts.  One final tradition:  the President started pardoning turkeys every year with George H.W. Bush in 1989.  Subsequent Presidents have continued the tradition.

So there you have some interesting facts about Thanksgiving.  Feel free to use them in talking around the table.  And have a very wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day.