These days, families are scattered across the United States. No longer do grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins live in the same neighborhood… often not even the same state! Even those families that live within driving distance are quite often so busy that it can be a very rare occurance for their extended members to see each other. But there is one day when many families try to come together as one to enjoy a meal together…Thanksgiving Day.
Although Thanksgiving has become a day for family bonding… and football for many… it began as a celebration of a bountiful harvest. We all learned in school about the first Thanksgiving when Pilgrims and Native Americans dined together in peace and harmony to share a meal of thanks.
Here are a few unusual facts you may not know about Thanksgiving. One day was just not enough to celebrate a harvest that was so badly needed.
New York was the first state to celebrate Thanksgiving as an annual holiday. New York designated it a holiday in 1817. Although many states were quick to follow New York’s lead, it wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln named the last Thursday of November as the national holiday of Thanksgiving. President Franklin D. Roosevelt later moved the holiday up a week, but the change was not popular and lasted only a couple years. In 1941, President Roosevelt signed a bill officially making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of the month.
Turkey was probably not the main dish at the first Thanksgiving. Although turkey may have been on the menu, it was probably served alongside meats and seafood like venison, duck, geese, oysters, lobster, mussels, and fish.
We wouldn’t have TV dinners without Thanksgiving. Swanson, the first food company to produce TV dinners, came up with the idea to use up the meat from a surplus of frozen turkey that didn’t sell in advance of Thanksgiving. The turkeys were sliced and packaged on tin trays with stuffing, vegetables and sweet potatoes.
Nobody used a fork at the first Thanksgiving table. That’s because there were no forks, only spoons and knives. The fork did not become widely used until the 18th century. The first Thanksgiving took place about a decade before the Pilgrims probably even saw a fork for the first time.
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The first Thanksgiving lasted longer than one day. One day was not enough to celebrate a harvest that was so needed. The preparations alone were lengthy as both Pilgrims and Native Americans prepared for the feast. Once the celebration began, there was plenty of food to keep everyone eating for days. There were also activities planned to keep folks busy, like shooting contests.