Thanksgiving, as we know it today, didn’t quite start that way. Yes, you perhaps know that the first Thanksgiving was held in the autumn of 1621 when the Wampanoag Indians celebrated the harvest with Plymouth Pilgrims that lasted for three days.
What you might not know is that many historians believe that only five women were present at that first Thanksgiving, as not too many women settlers survived that difficult first year in the U.S.
Thanksgiving became a national holiday only over 200 years after 1621. Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who wrote the classic song “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” convinced President Lincoln in 1863 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, after writing letters for 17 years campaigning for this to happen.
Although a turkey dinner has become a standard practice across the US, historians say that no turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving! The menu most likely consisted of deer or venison, ducks, geese, oysters, lobster, eel and fish.
The first Thanksgiving was eaten with spoons and knives — but no forks! The Pilgrims got introduced to the fork 10 years later. However, Forks became popular cutlery only during the 18th century.
Each year, the U.S President pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. This turkey pardon ceremony was started with President Truman in 1947. In 2009, President Obama pardoned a 45-pound turkey named Courage, who has flown to Disneyland and served as Grand Marshal of the park’s Thanksgiving Day parade!
And this one’s going to be a shocker for you. Thanksgiving was almost a fast rather than a feast! The early settlers gave thanks by praying and abstaining from food, which is what they planned on doing to celebrate their first harvest, that is, until the Wampanoag Indians joined them and (lucky for us!) turned their fast into a three-day feast!
Share these lesser known Thanksgiving facts with friends and family at the dinner table. Happy Thanksgiving!