In honor of today’s Thanksgiving Celebration: a few fun factoids about the same.
Factoid 1: Thanksgiving is the original Made-In-America holiday.
In the late fall of 1621, a group of 50, or so, European settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, held a ‘coming-out’ party of sorts and are usually credited for creating the Thanksgiving celebration we observe on the 4th Thursday of every November.
Annual religious themed harvest celebrations were part of these English immigrant’s culture. But, this group of piously-bent Pilgrims, planned to ramp things up a notch, and spend their event fasting and indulging in some serious praying.
That plan changed after granting requests made by their invited guests, members of a tribe of near-by Native Americans.
Although, those 50 to 90 Wampaoag Indians, depending on who you believe, and their chief, Massasoit, did observe harvests with their own version of religious pageantry.
But, to offset the dull, they also included some heavy duty eating, drinking and sporting competitions to work off their excesses.
The Pilgrims, being early adapters, and opportunists by necessity, if not by nature, had the good graces to adopt their guests ideas, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Factoid 2: Unique among our American holidays, Thanksgiving is a ‘stay-at-home’ and relax kinda event.
Thanksgiving has become synonymous with eating, drinking and most of all with family. It’s a day for reestablishing family ties, and letting it all hang out in a safe, comforting setting.
It’s also a brief time for consciously giving thanks for our blessings.
Traditionally, no gifts are exchanged.
Greeting cards and flowers needn’t be sent, and there’s little pressure for anything other than indulging ourselves before facing the rapidly approaching Christmas holiday season.
Factoid 3: The First Thanksgiving Was Not A One-Day Affair:
The 1st American ‘Thanksgiving’ planned for the late fall of 1621, was originally to last a week. Instead, it was done and over, in three days.
Factoid 4: The Odds Are 10 – 4 Against Turkey Being Served At The 1st Thanksgiving:
Something like 46 million turkeys, will be slapped onto serving dishes across America this Thanksgiving.
We might love this native American bird, but it’s doubtful it was served at the first Thanksgiving meal…
Because fish and ducks were plentiful in the nearby waterways, they were a sure bet for the feast. As was, deer meat (venison), which was provided by the Wampaoag Indian guests.
In the only surviving written account of the event, Edward Winslow’s letter to a friend, there was no mention of turkey. And cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes hadn’t yet been invented.
So, why do we think turkey a must for our Thanksgiving Day meal?
Well, nobody knows for sure. But, maybe… it’s William Bradford’s damn fault…
In 1863, when Abraham Lincoln officially made a national holiday outta Thanksgiving, it was only 7 years after the popular journals of American colonist William Bradford were rediscovered and published to great public acclaim.
In his journals, Bradford wrote colorfully about English colonists wild turkey hunts taking place around the period of the first Thanksgiving 3-day affair.
The romance of the hunt, coupled with turkey being both native American, and a game bird large enough to feed a table full of people, he ‘figured’ it logical turkey was part of the original Thanksgiving shindig.
Yet, Edward Winslow’s letter, written by a direct participant of the event, made no mention of turkey…
Factoid 5: Continental Congress proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1777:
What congress proclaimeth, the populace taketh away…
By 1815, Thanksgiving had fallen out of favor with the national big-wigs, and much of the country.
Yet, it was still celebrated in individual states. And, it started regaining national traction around the 1850’s.
Perhaps, reaching it’s height of popularity by the time Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday in 1863.
Factoid 6: Thanksgiving had become a ‘Costumed-Dress-Up’ rave-up by the late 1880’s:
Over the years after the American Civil War, both kids and adults gradually began to use Thanksgiving as an excuse to wear costumes and beg for treats and coins. (Much like today’s Halloween.)
Eventually, this practice was taken over by kids, mostly boys, and evolved into ‘Ragamuffin’ parades on Thanksgiving day.
By the 1920’s, most adults looked upon ‘dressing-up’ begging and the parades, as public nuisances. Yet, they remained popular with the boys, until gradually dying out in the 1950’s.
Factoid 7: Congress didn’t establish a national Thanksgiving holiday until December 26, 1941:
Perhaps, in a nod to Abraham Lincoln 1863’s ‘Thanksgiving Proclamation’, Congress proclaimed the 4th Thursday of November as the official holiday.
Factoid 8: Canada also observes Thanksgiving:
Our northern friends celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October. Oh, Canada…
Factoid 9: Thanksgiving day football started out as high school and college games:
The 1st professional football game was between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears in 1934. True to a form that’s evident to this very day, the Lions lost an entertaining defensive battle, 19-16.
(Sorry, but the Lions are having a sorry season this year.)
Pro football and Thanksgiving was an immediate hit. And, became a tradition, only skipped during the WWII years of 1939 through 1944.
Factoid 10: First Thanksgiving Parade was in Philadelphia:
In 1920, the 1st Thanksgiving parade, sponsored by Gimbels department store, took place. Preceding by 4 years, rival Macy’s sponsored parades.
Truth is, Annual Thanksgiving day parades were nothing more than private retail stores publicly pushing brand awareness in hopes of gaining Christmas shoppers.
Another example of why I love America sooooo…
On a side note,
…Adam Gimbel, Gimbel’s owner, introduced fixed pricing in his stores; that is, everything had a set, non-negotiable price…”
Fixed pricing, in an era when bartering and negotiating sales were common, revolutionized the retail industry. Source
Oh hell, Thanksgiving is all about family and being thankful for our blessings, may they be ever so humble.
Loosen up and enjoy your Turkey Day… And, GO LIONS!
Ideas for me, your aging related story, or comments are very damn welcome…
Photo Credit: Library of Congress