The first Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive the brutal winter. Fifty-three pilgrims and ninety Indians from the Wampanoag tribe participated. The feast included fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash.
During the eighteenth century days set aside for thanksgiving were often days of fasting rather than feasting.
The first national Proclamation of Thanksgiving was initiated by the Continental Congress in 1777.
Following the example of the Continental Congress, George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation in 1789.
President Thomas Jefferson scoffed at the idea of a national day of Thanksgiving, calling it “the most ridiculous idea” ever conceived.
Sarah Josepha Hale was an influential magazine editor and author who waged a relentless campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the mid-19th century. She was also the author of the classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.
President Abraham Lincoln issued an 1863 decree proclaiming a day of national thanksgiving.
Texas Governor Oren Roberts refused to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation, saying that Thanksgiving was a “damn Yankee tradition”.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada.
Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1941.
Thanksgiving Day and the day following are paid holidays for 78% of the American workforce. Employees of retail operations are a notable exception for whom Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving, is one of busiest work days of the year.
Approximately 80 percent of Americans traveling during the Thanksgiving holidays (31.2 million) travel by automobile, 12 percent (4.7 million) by airplane and the rest (2.8 million) by other modes of transportation.
Nearly 50 million people watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; 3 million attend it in person and the rest watch it on television.
88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
Of all the turkeys consumed in the United States during a year, approximately 20% are eaten during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The first TV dinners were created in 1953 when someone at Swanson overestimated the number of turkeys Americans would consume for Thanksgiving. Inspired by prepackaged airline food, Gary Thomson, a company representative, combined the leftover turkeys with dressing, peas and potatoes in aluminum trays and thus TV dinners were invented.
- Thanksgiving – select quotes
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
- Insufficiently Thankful
- Abraham Lincoln’s Declaration of Thanksgiving
- 1st National Proclamation of Thanksgiving
- A Thanksgiving Pop Quiz
- An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving
- A Thanksgiving Poem
The First Thanksgiving, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, by Jennie A. Brownscombe