Thanksgiving is one of most people’s favorite holidays. It’s all about gathering with family and friends, enjoying a great meal and pausing to reflect and be grateful for the important things in our lives.
Thanksgiving is rich in history and tradition, truly an American holiday. Although many other countries celebrate a similar holiday, Thanksgiving has its roots right here in Massachusetts in present day Plymouth where the Pilgrims settled after sailing from England seeking a new and better life.
Here are some fun facts and trivia about Thanksgiving:
- The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians gathered to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The celebration included food and games and lasted for three days. Although turkey has long been associated with Thanksgiving, deer was actually part of the main course of that first Thanksgiving dinner.
- The “Mother of Thanksgiving,” Sarah Josepha Hale, the New Hampshire-born 19th century editor of a women’s magazine and author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” campaigned 15 years for a national day of thanksgiving. She advocated the idea in a letter dated Sept. 23, 1863 to President Abraham Lincoln. Days after receiving the letter, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
- The third Thursday of November was celebrated as Thanksgiving Day for a few years. In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week after being concerned of a short Christmas shopping season. In 1941, Congress moved it back to the fourth Thursday of the month. By the way, our Canadian neighbors celebrate their Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October.
- The National Turkey Foundation estimates that 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day and the average weight of the bird purchased is 15 pounds. The average American eats 17 pounds of turkey a year.
- The top turkey producing state is Minnesota that in 2011 produced some 46.5 million birds. Minnesota is followed by North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri and Indiana that account for nearly two-thirds of all turkey production in the US, according to the history Channel.
- Cranberry sauce is a traditional accompaniment of the Thanksgiving meal. Whole cranberries, not cranberry sauce were likely served on that first Thanksgiving, Massachusetts along with Washington, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Oregon are the top cranberry growing states.
- Pulling the “wishbone” of a turkey is a long-time tradition. Only the person who pulled the larger piece gets to make a wish.
- Native Americans called turkey, FIRKEE, which sounds a bit like turkey.
- Does Eating Turkey really make us sleepy? Yes, it does. Turkey does contain the essential amino acid tryptophan which is a natural sedative. However, so do a lot of other foods, including chicken, beef, pork, beans and cheese. Many people believe that eating turkey is why they are sleepy after the family feast, but most likely there are many factors. The combination of fats and carbohydrates that we eat with the turkey, as well as the large amount of food consumed, (not to forget alcohol in some cases) is most likely the reason why most people feel like taking a nap after their meal.
- Football and Thanksgiving Day go back to 1876. That was the year when the American Intercollegiate Football Association held its first championship game. By the 1890s, the number of games grew to over 5,000. Colleges such as Princeton and Yale had over 40,000 spectators. The National Football League took up the tradition in 1934 when the Detroit Lions tangled with the Chicago Bears at the University of Detroit Stadium. That game had only 26,000 in attendance.
Enjoy your family and friends and have a Happy Thanksgiving Day!