- Lauren Booker For the AJC
Each year, Thanksgiving comes around with with the giddy anticipation of devoruing comfort food and spending some QT with loved ones, which reminds you just what what you are thankful for the most.
The rich, deep history of this centuries-old tradition is woven into the United States' cultural fabric, yet, there are still many aspects of the holiday that most Americans don’t know.
To resolve that general lack of Thanksgiving knowledge, we’ve gathered nine interesting and unusual facts about Thanksgiving facts you might not have known.
When did Thanksgiving begin?
The holiday is believed to have begun in Massachusetts at the Plymouth Colony in 1621. The famous harvest feast was celebrated by the Pokanoket tribe and the colonists. The Plymouth Colony was composed of pilgrims, who were a part of the English Separatist Church. They traveled from England to the "New World" aboard a boat called the Mayflower in search of a place where they could practice their religion freely.
What foods were served?
Just as expected, turkey could have been served during the first Thanksgiving. Edward Winslow, the Pilgrim chronicler, wrote that before the dinner men went on a "fowling" mission to catch some bird meat. Fall produce that would have just been harvested was also on the menu, including grapes, plums and that Thanksgiving staple, cranberries. Unlike present-day Thanksgiving meals, seafood, such as lobster, bass and oysters, were also featured prominently during the early days of the holiday.
When did it become a national holiday?
It wasn't until nearly 200 years later that President Abraham Lincoln announced that every last Thursday of November would be a national day of thanksgiving. In 1941, the feast became an official national holiday by an act of Congress.
Guess which Thanksgiving-related fowl Benjamin Franklin wanted to represent the U.S.A.?
If you guessed the good ole turkey, then you are right. Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, had much love for the bird and deemed it "much more respectable" than our current national bird, the eagle.
The turkey's name was born out of confusion.
When Christopher Columbus landed on America, he thought he was in India. So he named turkeys after the "tuka," which is an Indian word for the peacock. Maybe it was their similar feather pattern that contributed to the mix-up.
Not just Americans celebrate it.
Canadians observe Thanksgiving, too. It's called l'Action de grâce and has been celebrated since 1578. The holiday was founded on the same principles as the United States' Thanksgiving, which is the grateful breaking of bread with each other during harvest time. The weekend before the holiday, which is on the second Monday in October, is when citizens feast on staples, such as turkey, corn and mashed potatoes.
Other countries with holidays similar to Thanksgiving include Germany's Erntedankfest and Japan's Niinamesai. Grenada, Liberia, the Netherlands and Norfolk Island also recognize their own Thanksgivings.
Thank the holiday for TV dinners.
Due to a 26-ton surplus of Swanson turkeys back in 1953, the company decided to try and sell the extra birds. They sliced the frozen meat and repackaged it, which gave way to the modern-day TV dinner.
Turkey has inspired the names of several American cities.
Yes, there are towns named after the turkey. There's Turkey, North Carolina, Turkey Creek, Louisiana, and Turkey, Texas. As you can imagine, there are plenty of wild turkeys in Turkey, North Carolina that like to hang out in the wetlands.
Thanksgiving has become the unofficial favorite holiday for NFL games.
The Detriot Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have a reputation for playing on the holiday. The Detroit Lions started the tradition in 1934 because the team's owner George A. Richards wanted to drum up excitement for the then-new team. The Dallas Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving since 1966, because their general manager, Tex Schramm, saw it as a way to get national attention.