Ten Facts about Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is popularly thought of as commemorating the birth of what has become the United States of America.  According to the slightly-fudged history, Pilgrims, who had traveled to America to escape religious persecution, wanted to give thanks to the Native Americans after surviving a brutal winter.  Still, though, Thanksgiving is popular throughout the world, and there are many facts about the holiday that you probably aren’t aware of.  Here are ten of them:

  • Even though the Pilgrims were thanking the Native Americans for helping them survive their first winter in America, over half of the Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower had already died from cold, hunger and other ailments.
  • Today Americans eat turkey and pumpkin pie, but in the first years of the Thanksgiving celebration, the main course was simply any bird that could be successfully hunted.  And as for pumpkin pie, a lack of ovens made that impossible, though there was boiled pumpkin for dessert.
  • The first American Thanksgiving took place in St. Augustine, Florida, which is also the first American city.
  • Today we think of Thanksgiving as a very special holiday, but back in the time of the Pilgrims, it was simply one feast day among many others.  Indeed, both English and Native American colonies had long been holding regular harvest festivals.  Thanksgiving is simply the one that endures today.
  • For many years after the first Thanksgiving, the holiday was only periodically observed.  After fruitful harvests, there usually was a large feast.  After bad harvests, fasting was instead  how the season was observed.
  • Today we think of Thanksgiving as a feast day, and, thus, it is mostly seen as a non-religious holiday.  The Pilgrims in Plymouth, though, put more emphasis on giving thanks to their God.  So Thanksgiving was originally a very religious holiday.
  • In modern times, Thanksgiving has become a once-annual celebration.  In the time of the American Revolutionary War, though, the Continental Congress regularly declared more than one Thanksgiving day in any given year.
  • America’s National Football League has hosted a game on Thanksgiving Day every year since the inception of the league.  Until the mid 1990s, the Thanksgiving Day game was the only game played on day other than Sunday and Monday.
  • The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday.  It is the heaviest shopping day of the year in America, and gets its name from the fact that many companies go from the “red” (losing money) to the “black” (turning a profit) because of day-after-Thanksgiving sales.
  • Perhaps the oddest tradition to arise from Thanksgiving is turkey bowling: a frozen turkey is thrown at a group of plastic soda bottles, with the object being to knock down as many of the bottles as possible.

So, as you can see, Thanksgiving is about more than just sitting down with your family and eating turkey.