Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cool Thanksgiving Facts

After doing some research on the web I came across this cool site that listed these Thanksgiving facts. So to start off the month of November on my blog I thought I'd list them.

(Thanks to for the info)

Some Cool Thanksgiving Facts

There are a lot of misconceptions about the first thanksgiving. The image that we grew up with was a bunch of pilgrims, clad in black with hats and large buckles on their shoes. They gathered around a table laden with pumpkin pies and turkeys and joined the indians in giving thanks for the bountiful harvest. This does paint a pretty picture, but not a very factual one. Here are the facts.

1621 is but the first of many holidays
Fact : Actually the first thanksgiving feast was not repeated. It was not the beginning of a long tradition of family meals. What's more the puritans would not have called the day "Thanksgiving." That term would have been applied to a religious holiday and such a day would have been spent in the church and not at a table feasting. Journals from the time tell of dancing, singing and playing games all of which would not have been allowed in a religious celebration. So the first Thanksgiving was secular in nature and therefore, in the minds of the pilgrims, it would not have been considered a day to give thanks to God.

The first Thanksgiving was the fourth Thursday in November
Fact : Although the exact date of the first Thanksgiving is not known, it probably occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11. More than a meal, the first Thanksgiving was really a festival lasting three days. The English had a centuries old tradition of harvest festivals and the first Thanksgiving was an extension of those. It wasn't until 1817 that New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. Slowly other states began to do the same. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln assigned the last Thursday in November as a National Day of Thanksgiving. But it was not official and was up to each subsequent president to renew the appointment. Not until FDR was the date officially set. In 1939, the fourth Thursday in November was approved by the president as the official date of Thanksgiving. Congress ratified in 1941. So in the big scheme of things, Thanksgiving is actually a very modern tradition.

Pilgrims wore big buckles on their shoes
Fact : It was not until much later into the 17th Century that buckles came into fashion. As English Puritans the pilgrims only wore black and white on Sunday and formal occasions.

The feast included pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes
Fact : Of course, no one knows exactly what was on the menu at that first feast but, it is known that pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes were not there. It is almost certain that the pilgrims had no pies and no sweets on the table. They came to america with a limited amount of flour and sugar. After their first year in America the supplies of both were probably long exhausted. There were no ovens so breads and cakes, as we know them, were impossible. What it certain from written sources is that the pilgrims did enjoy lots of venison and wild fowl. According to Puritan custom, the first feast would have been eaten in shifts. In Pilgrim households the adults ate first while the children and servants stood by.

The Indians were in attendance
Fact : This one is true. According to Edward Winslow in A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth: "many of the indians came amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted." However the myths have grown, it is clear that life for these settlers was grim at best. Many of them perished en route to America, and more were to die during that first harsh winter. Their diet would seem to us today as very heavy and fatty, but the pilgrims needed that additional protein for their strenuous lives. You may not know that the only furniture they brought with them on this voyage were storage chests and boxes. Everything that they needed was constructed once they arrived in the New World.

We have come a long way since that first festival and Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new meaning. We are truly blessed with plenty. The tables are piled high with all sorts of dishes as we come together as families to enjoy the food and fellowship. We don't depend on a successful harvest to get us through the winter and as such modern Thanksgiving has evolved. Today we allow ourselves this one day to slow down and gather around the family table. In our opinion, that spirit, in and of itself, is worthy of a holiday.


Sunny said...

My hubby is a Brit and he is always giving us a hard time about our "American Holidays" of Thanksgiving and Independance Day, so it'll be cool to be able to bust him that our Thanksgiving is an EXTENSION of the English harvest celebrations!
One down- one to go!!

Adding you to my daily reads!!

Azzitizz said...

Hey, that was really interesting information.
Always wondered about Thanksgiving. Thanks.

Geoff said...

Very cool post! I didn't know half of what I thought I did about the holiday.