Thanksgiving Day is the first of the two holidays in the fourth weekend of November. The other one is Black Friday. The occasion is celebrated each year, with most families preparing and sharing a holiday feast with roast turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies, pickles and a variety of fall vegetables and fruits.
Why do Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day?
The main reason for the celebration is to give thanks. But if you look into the history of the occasion, you’ll see that there’s more to it than just giving thanks. Thanksgiving’s story is about economic recovery, renewal of the spirit of entrepreneurship, having a feast and enjoying spectacular events.
Origin of Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day was initially a celebration to give thanks for a good harvest. It was observed by indigenous Americans long before the arrival of European pilgrims. Spanish and French colonizers also celebrated Thanksgiving in areas that now belong to the United States.
European settlers came to Virginia in 1619. They celebrated a Thanksgiving holiday in 1621 to give thanks for their first bountiful harvest at the Plymouth Plantation. The settlers were helped by Squanto, a former slave in England, where he learned the English language. He was a Native American from the Patuxet tribe. With his knowledge of English, he became the settlers’ interpreter. He taught them how to grow corn and catch eel. The Wampanoag tribe occupied the area and their leader, Massasoit, gave food to the settlers during their first winter in America because they ran out of supplies they brought from their country.
The initial Thanksgiving feast was attended by 90 Wampanoags and 50 English settlers. The feast went on for three days.
Fast and fun facts about Thanksgiving Day
Like most of the holidays, it’s fun to know some of the facts and trivia about the country’s special occasions. Thanksgiving is just like that. Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated in specific locations sporadically since 1607. And before we get carried away, here are more facts about the holiday which you can add to your knowledge or use to impress your friends.
- From the request of Congress, George Washington made a proclamation to celebrate Thanksgiving nationally from 1789. The celebration was sporadic, though. Thanksgiving Day was not observed during the time of Thomas Jefferson but it was declared a federal holiday during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. At that time, the holiday was observed on the final Thursday of November.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt officially changed the date to the fourth Thursday of November. Many attribute the change of date to boost spending to ease the effects of the economic depression.
- For 17 years, Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer and editor, lobbied Congress to make the day an official holiday. One of her works is Mary Had a Little Lamb, a very popular nursery rhyme.
- According to many historians, the first Thanksgiving menu did not include turkey. The settlers and the Native Americans had fish, eel, lobster, oysters, geese, ducks and deer. They believed that the menu also included pumpkins.
- Spoons and knives were the utensils used to eat the festive dinner. Forks were not introduced until the 18th century.
- Many theories float around as to why turkeys became associated with Thanksgiving Day but there are no known records of how it became the preferred entrée. What’s factual is that about 46 million turkeys are consumed by Americans during Thanksgiving. The use of cranberry sauce with turkey is also undetermined. However, American Indians use cranberry as food, medicine and fabric dye. Most of the Thanksgiving turkeys are consumed in California.
- Around 80 million pounds of cranberries are consumed each Thanksgiving Day.
- Did you know that in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island, there is a law prohibiting large stores, department stores and supermarkets to operate on Thanksgiving Day?
- Moreover, selling alcohol on Thanksgiving is illegal in North Dakota and Massachusetts.
- Since 1970, instead of Thanksgiving, a National Day of Mourning is observed by Native Americans.
- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade started in 1924. It became a huge success such that the department store declared that they are going to make it an annual event. Originally, live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo were used for the parade. But because the animals scared the children, character balloons were used as replacements. Until 1933, the balloons from the parade were released at the end of the event. The balloons were designed to float in the air around the city for about week. They have a return address and people who were able to retrieve and return them were each given $100. The Macy’s parade lasts for three hours.
- The oldest Thanksgiving parade held in the U.S. was held in Philadelphia in 1920. It was hosted by Gimbels. Today it is called the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade and runs for 3.5 hours.
These are just some of the most notable facts and trivia about Thanksgiving. Go ahead and amaze your friends. Why not hold a trivia quiz with your friends after your Thanksgiving party. Enjoy the holiday and keep safe!
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From all of us here at Day Translations,
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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