Fun Thanksgiving Facts To Share Around The Dinner Table

By

CCSS NCSS-1 790 Words 6-Minute Listen
Thanksgiving is observed annually on the last Thursday of November (Credit: BiljaST/ CC0/Pixabay)

Thanksgiving, which is observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November, is one of the most anticipated American holidays. The celebrations usually center around a delicious feast enjoyed with extended family members and friends. While the COVID-19 pandemic will put a damper on large in-person gatherings, the holiday can still be enjoyed with those living within the same household or part of the same social bubble. Here are some fun Thanksgiving tidbits to get the party started.

First Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving feast was held in Plymouth in 1621 ( Credit: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe /National Museum of Women in the Arts,/Public Domain/ Commons.wikimedia.org)

The first Thanksgiving feast is credited to Governor William Bradford, who invited the Wampanoag Native Americans to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first harvest. Though the event was not repeated, many Americans continued to observe harvest festivals at different times of the year. President George Washington tried to consolidate the celebrations by issuing a proclamation designating November 26, 1789, as a national day of public thanks-giving. However, the tradition was ignored by subsequent presidents.

It was not until Sarah Josepha Hale — the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb" — took up the cause in 1827, that the idea was seriously considered. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. In 1941, to avoid confusion, US lawmakers set the date to the fourth Thursday of the month.

Fishy Menu

Most modern Thanksgiving dishes were not on the original menu (Credit: Jason Riedy/CC-BY-SA 2.0 /Wikimedia Commons)

While the typical modern-day Thanksgiving meal centers around turkey, historians believe the first Thanksgiving meal largely comprised seafood such as mussels, lobsters, clams, oysters, bass, and even seals. Potatoes and cranberry sauce were also not on the original menu. The addition of the spuds is credited to Hale, who often wrote recipes and descriptions of ideal Thanksgiving meals that featured — you guessed it — mashed potatoes. The brilliant idea of adding cranberry sauce came from Civil War Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who ordered the condiment be served to soldiers as part of their holiday meal in 1864.


Turkey Pardons

US President John F. Kennedy pardons Thanksgiving turkey ( Credit: Robert L. Knudsen/Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

Though President Harry Truman started the Thanksgiving turkey pardoning tradition at the White House, he was not the first president to save a bird from the dinner table. That credit goes to President Abraham Lincoln, who pardoned Jack, a turkey reserved for Christmas dinner in 1863, due to his son Tad's affinity for the bird.

The tradition of bringing a spare turkey began in 1981 after one named Liberty, escaped before President Ronald Reagan could grant pardon. In recent years, the public has been able to participate in this fun event by voting online for the turkeys' names. This has resulted in some fun monikers, including Mac and Cheese, and Tater and Tot. Though this year's birds have yet to be revealed, White House officials have indicated that President Trump plans to continue this fun ritual.

Thanksgiving Touchdown

The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving Day ( Credit: Dave Hogg, CC BY 2.0/Creativecommons.org)

In 1876, to increase the still-nascent sport's popularity, the American Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA) held the championship game between Yale and Princeton University on Thanksgiving Day. It was such a success that the event became a holiday staple. When IFA abandoned the tradition in 1934, the Detroit Lions seized the opportunity to attract more locals to their games, and a new ritual was born. Today, the National Football League holds three Thanksgiving games, two of which include the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys.

Ready, Set, Turkey Trot

Many people participate in turkey trots on Thanksgiving morning ( Credit: JBLM PAO/CC-BY-SA-2.0/ Pixabay)

Many Americans wake up early on Thanksgiving morning to participate in runs called turkey trots. The fun event, which also helps raise money for charity, was started in Buffalo, New York, in 1896 and is now held in cities across the country. While public turkey trots have been canceled this year due to the coronavirus, enthusiasts can still participate by registering for one of the many virtual events online and completing the runs in their neighborhood or even at home on a treadmill.

Macy's Day Parade

Santa Claus' arrival at the parade's finale marks the start of the Christmas season (Credit: tweber1 /CC BY-SA 2.0/commons.wikimedia.org)

Macy's first parade, held on Thanksgiving morning in 1924, was meant to be a one-time extravaganza to showcase the opening of its newly-acquired million square feet of retail space in New York City. The parade was so popular that the box retailer decided to make it an annual tradition. Today, it attracts over 3.5 million people in person and an estimated 50 million television viewers.

This year, to avoid gathering large crowds of spectators, Macy's will forgo the traditional 2.5-mile parade route across New York City, and, instead, restrict the festivities close to its famed flagship store on 34th Street. However, the event, which will be televised live, promises to be just as spectacular, complete with signature balloons, floats, and live performances.

Do you know a fun Thanksgiving fact or tradition? Be sure to share it with us by adding your comments below.


Have A Happy And Safe Thanksgiving!

Resources: History.com, Wikipedia.org

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
270 Comments
  • mysterous
    mysterousWednesday, December 2, 2020 at 7:51 am
    that is cool
    • nya-lovtiktok
      nya-lovtiktokWednesday, December 2, 2020 at 6:21 am
      Happy thanksgiving late one to everybody stay safe if you have family coming over wear a mask or if you are going wear a mask
      • caitisconer
        caitisconerTuesday, December 1, 2020 at 6:21 pm
        I am thankful for all of y'all!!! I love y'all!!!!😍💝
        • caitisconer
          caitisconerTuesday, December 1, 2020 at 6:19 pm
          happy late thanksgiving!!! Hope you were all safe!!#stay safe #stay home #go away coved19😷
          • spacegirl10
            spacegirl10Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 7:59 am
            Hi Guys I Think Its Cool How Different Countries Have Different Thanksgivings Give A Like If You Agree Also Happy Late Thanksgiving
            • danthecoolman
              danthecoolmanMonday, November 30, 2020 at 9:59 pm
              It is so sad that we can not go to school, My school used to serve thanksgiving special. What I mean is that it has corn, mash potatoes, and a little meat! I wish this pandamic would of never hit. Everyone HAPPY LATE THANKSGIVING!!!!!!!!!!!
              • tofunny
                tofunnyMonday, November 30, 2020 at 1:07 pm
                happy thanksgiving!!!!!!!!
                • doggiestar
                  doggiestarMonday, November 30, 2020 at 8:54 am
                  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!
                  • sydneyz
                    sydneyzSaturday, November 28, 2020 at 9:17 am
                    My brother actually butchered our turkey. I did NOT watch,because it's pretty gross.
                    • sicknessk8yuud
                      sicknessk8yuudFriday, November 27, 2020 at 6:33 pm
                      Happy Thanksgiving