Now that we’ve successfully navigated Halloween, it’s time once again to look forward to the gravy-filled joy that Thanksgiving is sure to bring. Prior to the winter holiday madness, Thanksgiving kicks off a season that, for many, represents food, fun, football, and family.
But there is so much more to it than that. How much do you actually know about Thanksgiving?
There was no turkey at the beginning
Your Thanksgiving Day knowledge should begin with the bird — however, the first Thanksgiving did not. Deer, birds, and seafood made an appearance, though none of them were stuffed inside of one another (Turducken, anyone?).
The President’s role?
You might also want to know that it is the U.S. President’s job to pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving Day, preventing it from being eaten. This tradition began in 1989 with President Bush (although some say it began in 1947 with President Truman). President Obama pardoned a turkey named Courage who then served as the Grand Marshal of the Disneyland Thanksgiving Day parade.
Our potential national bird
If you think the eagle is regal, maybe you would have also enjoyed the turkey, which some believe was Ben Franklin’s choice for the national bird. Though we eat approximately 46 million of them each Thanksgiving, it could have been an interesting choice. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin wrote that the eagle had bad moral character. The turkey, he said, was a much more respectable bird.
The reason for the season
If you’re grateful for Thanksgiving, you can thank Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman responsible for writing Mary Had a Little Lamb. In 1863, she convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. All of this followed nearly 30 years of a letter writing campaign begging for holiday status.
What day again?
One day is nothing though — the first Thanksgiving included so many people that it lasted for three days! Ever wonder about the date? President Roosevelt moved it up a week in 1939 in an effort to boost the shopping season during the Great Depression era. He couldn’t quite get it to catch on and moved it back two years later.
Ready, set, hut!
If you’re one of the many Americans watching football on Thanksgiving, you may have noticed that the home teams don’t exactly change. The Detroit Lions have hosted a game each year since 1920, and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted since 1966 — though the league added a third hosting team in 2006.
Where else has turkey been eaten?
You can consider yourself in good company if you’re enjoying turkey this Thanksgiving season — astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate it during their time in space, which is pretty good for a bird that can’t even fly.
The origin of the name
Thanksgiving Day probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to the turkey, who is referred to, at only 12 weeks-old, as a fryer-roaster. The name, turkey, actually came from Europeans who enjoyed the guinea fowls imported to the continent by Turkish merchants. Hence, they ended up calling them turkeys.
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So, no matter where you’re celebrating this year, take a moment to reflect on the ever-so-interesting history of American Thanksgiving, a holiday filled with delicious food, family, and football. Take time to enjoy yourself and give thanks — but give yourself a break as well. This school year is only getting started!
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