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A week from today, on Thursday, Nov 24, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. The annual tradition is credited to a harvest celebration between the early European settlers and the Native Americans. While that is true, there is more to that story and the other traditions observed on this secular holiday, on which family and friends get together to count their blessings over a scrumptious meal. Here is some Thanksgiving trivia that may be fun to share at the dinner table.

The Thanksgiving Story

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (Photo Credit: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe via Wikimedia Commons)

As you probably know, the first Thanksgiving celebration took place in Plymouth in the fall of 1621. According to the legend, Governor William Bradford invited Native Americans to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first harvest to show gratitude for all they had done. However, the three-day event that included activities like hunting and fishing was not repeated the following year. While harvest festivals continued, especially in the northern states, there was no set day. In 1789, George Washington tried to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving so that Americans could express their gratitude for the "happy conclusion to the country's war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution." But he did not get much support from the people.

It was not until Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb,” took up the cause that Thanksgiving became a countrywide observance. The North Hampshire resident who had grown up with an annual Thanksgiving celebration to show gratitude for everything positive, was determined to make it a national holiday. It took the women’s advocate and magazine editor almost 40 years of writing editorials and letters to convince the officials. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln finally proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. In 1941, to avoid confusion, Congress set the date to the fourth Thursday of the month.

Why is Thanksgiving On A Thursday in November?

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The holiday is celebrated in November because that was when the feast between the Native Americans and Pilgrims took place and also because it falls right after traditional harvest time. However, there appears to be no real reason why Thursday became the day of choice. The day seems to have stuck since President Lincoln first announced it in 1863. What’s interesting is that while the week the holiday falls on has been moved a few times, there has never been any suggestion about changing the day!

Why Turkey Became The Bird Of Choice

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Since there were plenty of wild turkeys in 1621, it makes sense to assume that the birds were featured in the original feast. But if the two accounts of the first Thanksgiving are to be believed the birds were not on the menu. Instead, the Native Americans and Pilgrims feasted on goose, lobster, cod and deer. Some think that turkeys became popular because they were cheaper than geese and chickens and also easier to raise. Others believe, it was because Pilgrim Edward Winslow mentioned a turkey hunt in a letter describing the 1621 Thanksgiving meal. Then there are those that credit the tradition to Sarah Josepha Hala, who urged families to make the bird a Thanksgiving staple when she was petitioning for the holiday.

How Does Football Fit Into The Mix?

Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings (Photo Credit: By kdoebler [CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Given that Americans love football, it is not surprising that the game has become an important part of Thanksgiving. The origin of this tradition began long before the National Football League (NFL) was established. The first Thanksgiving game played between Yale and Princeton in 1874, was so well-received that it became an annual tradition.

In 1934, to try to attract more fans, the new owner of the Detroit Lions decided to stage a Thanksgiving game against the undefeated Chicago Bears. It was sold out two weeks before the event, and hundreds of fans had to be turned away from the gates. Since then (except for a short break from 1939-1944), the team has hosted a game, every year! The Dallas Cowboys joined the tradition in 1966, and the two teams now attract millions of television viewers every holiday.

Canada Celebrates Thanksgiving Too!

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While it may be hard to believe, Americans were not the first to celebrate Thanksgiving. Canada commemorated the first “Turkey Day” in 1578, long before the Pilgrims arrived in New England. The tradition was started by Arctic explorer Martin Frobisher to celebrate the safe landing of his fleet in Newfoundland, following an unsuccessful voyage to discover the Northwest Passage. While Canadian Thanksgiving was originally also celebrated in November, it was moved to the second Monday in October in 1957 to allow residents to enjoy the holiday before the cold winters set in.

Do you know any fun Thanksgiving trivia? If so, be sure to share it with us by writing your comments below.

Have a Happy And Safe Thanksgiving!