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So, what is Thanksgiving really about?

November 12, 2013
by

Thanksgiving is a holiday surrounded by myths and legends. Many societies have a day set aside to give thanksgiving for the many blessings they enjoy. In the United States, Thanksgiving has become a time for families and friends to get together, eat probably too much, and give thanks. Following are some interesting facts about this beloved holiday.

  1. While most Americans think of the Pilgrims as celebrating the first Thanksgiving in America, there are some claims that others in the New World should be recognized as first. For example, in Texas there is a marker that says, “Feast of the First Thanksgiving – 1541.” 
  2. The date of what is typically recognized as the first Thanksgiving is not precisely known though it occurred between September 21 and November 9, 1621. The Plymouth Pilgrims dined with the Wampanoag Indians for the first Thanksgiving.
  3. The First Thanksgiving lasted for three days.
  4. According to Edward Winslow, a participant in the first Thanksgiving, the feast consisted of corn, barley, fowl including wild turkeys and waterfowl, and venison.
  5. 52 Pilgrims attended the first Thanksgiving in 1621 including John Alden, William Bradford, Priscilla Mullins, and Miles Standish.
  6. Approximately 50 Native Americans attended the first Thanksgiving including Massasoit and Squanto – the Pilgrim’s translator. 
  7. The First Thanksgiving was actually a secular event that was not repeated. A Calvinist Thanksgiving actually did occur in 1623 and did not involve sharing food with the Native Americans.
  8. The first national celebration of Thanksgiving was declared in 1775 by the Continental Congress. This was to celebrate the win at Saratoga during the American Revolution. However, this was not an annual event.
  9. In 1863, two national days of Thanksgiving were declared: One celebrated the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg. The other began the Thanksgiving holiday we still celebrate today.
  10. The author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Sarah Josepha Hale, was key in getting Thanksgiving officially recognized as a national holiday. 
  11. Each year the President officially declares a day of National Thanksgiving.
  12. Since Harry Truman, every president has pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving.
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