Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Post: 10 Historical Facts About Thanksgiving

The following guest post was submitted by Lori Hutchison, an Art History Professor and owner of Masters in History Schools.  I think history is fascinating, and I look forward to perusing Lori's work myself.  Enjoy!  I'll be back tomorrow to Frag It for Friday :-) If you're interested in doing a guest post, drop me an e-mail.  <3 KL

Thanksgiving is a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s unique culture and heritage. But the way we celebrate Thanksgiving has a long history that has changed significantly since the Pilgrims first arrived. Here are ten historical facts about the holiday we’ve come to call Thanksgiving.

1. The first recorded “thanksgiving” feast was celebrated in 1541 by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado of Spain and his troops, along with the native peoples of the Texas panhandle region, while they were on a New World exploration.

2. French and English colonists held several thanksgiving feasts in the late 1500s and early 1600s, but the one that went down in the history books took place in 1621 in Plymouth, MA.

3. Everything we know about the 1621 Thanksgiving came from a letter written by Edward Winslow, who was the leader of the Plymouth Colony at the time. This letter was lost for over 200 years. When it was rediscovered, an embellished account of the “First Thanksgiving” was printed in a newspaper in 1841.

4. The first Thanksgiving feast was attended by 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Native American men. The Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast and brought fish, vegetables, and grains. The Pilgrims provided wild fowl, which may have been geese, ducks, or turkey. The feast lasted three days.

5. In the 17th and 18th centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies, then later by early presidents. However, these days were marked with prayer and fasting rather than feasts.

6. President Lincoln declared the first national holiday for Thanksgiving Day in 1863, after the suggestion was made by an editor of a popular magazine. It was to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November.

7. Following Lincoln’s tradition, later presidents continued to declare Thanksgiving each year on the final Thursday in November. However, from 1939 to 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving on the next-to-last Thursday in order to extend the shopping season and help merchants coming out of the Depression.

8. In December of 1941, a federal law was passed declaring Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. However, several states continued to celebrate on the last Thursday as late as 1956.

9. The National Turkey Federation has presented the U.S. President with two cooked turkeys and one live turkey since 1947. Ronald Reagan started the tradition of “pardoning” the live turkey in 1987, in which it lives the rest of its life peacefully on a farm.

10. Americans will eat an estimated 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Turkey Federation.

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