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A short history of Thanksgiving fun facts

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 at 10:44 am


From the original three day harvest festival celebrated in 1621 to the proclamation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863 to the 1941 legislature, the beloved holiday has seen many changes.

The festival that the current holiday is modeled after, included 53 surviving Pilgrims from the Mayflower and 90 Wampanoag Indians, of which historians believe only five women to have been present. The dishes were also quite different from modern menu features, including venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel, and fish likely served, alongside pumpkins and cranberries (although not in the form of pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce). It was not until 1857, that turkey would become part of the traditional center dinner piece in New England. The wild turkeys of the time, although much different from the present domestic turkey, were larger than chickens and did not produce valuable milk or eggs and as such were chosen to feed the holiday crowd.

After more than two centuries, it was Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” who convinced President Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday after 30 years of trying to convince various United States presidents. Finally, on October 3, 1863, Hale’s wish was granted. President Lincoln issued the proclamation deeming “the last Thursday of November,” a day of Thanksgiving. Several arguments followed in newspaper editorials focusing on the magnitude and severity that the country was suffering in the midst of the civil war and that the American people as a whole must take time for gratitude, supporting the President’s decision and by extension Hale.

The holiday would go through even more changes as many years saw the holiday on different days and widespread confusion with some years having five Thursdays in November.  Some states held the holiday on the fourth Thursday of every November, some on the last day of the month, and still others would celebrate the last Thursday of the month. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office and saw two Thanksgivings lost in the massive confusion he signed into the legislature that would then be passed by Congress to designate the fourth Thursday of the month as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday. This took into account the years with five Thursdays and supported the big retailers who had lobbied for more time between the holiday shopping weeks for customers.

The Marion Tribune – November 23, 2023