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Need to Impress family? Here is some fascinating Thanksgiving trivia!

Oct 28 2021

Need to Impress family? Here is some fascinating Thanksgiving trivia!

It’s time to dust off Thanksgiving trivia that you might have learned in elementary school! The history of Thanksgiving may be all over the place, but it’s always fun to learn something new about America’s favorite holiday!

This year, make sure you know all of these 10 fascinating facts before sitting down for Turkey Day. Enjoy!

  1. What did they eat on the first Thanksgiving?

Turkey was probably not served at the original Thanksgiving meal, but there would have been a lot of other foods that were. The Wampanoags brought deer, and they might have had a few other options to share, including lobster and fish. Though there were no potatoes used for mashed potatoes, pumpkins would have been grown by the settlers for their puree.

  1. Where was the first Thanksgiving?

Holidays are often thought of as a time for gathering with family and friends, but the origins of Thanksgiving might be more complicated than that. Some historians argue that Florida, not Massachusetts, may have been the real site of the first Thanksgiving in North America. In 1565, nearly 60 years before Plymouth, a Spanish fleet arrived and placed a cross on the sandy beach to christen the new settlement of St. Augustine. Celebrating the event and God’s providence, the 800 Spanish settlers shared a festive meal with the native Timucuan people.

  1. Did you know that Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving for a really long time?

In 1789, after the Revolutionary War had ended and the Constitution was ratified, George Washington called for a day of thanks to commemorate these victories. During the Civil War, both the Confederacy and the Union issued Thanksgiving Day proclamations.

  1. Which president refused to recognize Thanksgiving?

When a bill in Congress created Thanksgiving as an official holiday in 1789, it was adamantly shot down by Thomas Jefferson. When asked about his refusal to support this tradition year after year, he responded that "it behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others." He believed that making one day of Thanksgiving was violating the separation between church and state. He believed this could lead to religious persecution if someone did not celebrate Thanksgiving on this specific date.

  1. How long since pumpkin pie became a traditional part of Thanksgiving?

Pumpkin pie is a staple on New England Thanksgiving tables as far back as the 17th century, but did you know it played an important role in the history of Colchester, CT? Colchester's Thanksgiving celebration of 1705 was delayed a week due to a shortage of molasses. Molasses was less expensive than sugar making it the sweetener of choice for pies, baked beans, and rum. Without molasses there would have been nothing to sweeten the pumpkin pies or the holiday. 

  1. When did football become a Thanksgiving tradition?

The first Thanksgiving Day football game was played in 1876, at Hamilton Park in New Haven, Connecticut. In that game, the Yale Bulldogs defeated the Princeton Tigers by a score of 3-0. Then by the 1890s, Thanksgiving Day had become a major fixture on America's sports calendar. 

  1. When did canned cranberries become a Thanksgiving standard? 

Native Americans had been eating cranberries for centuries, but it's unlikely they ever thought to serve them with along side mashed potatoes. Before the pilgrims’ arrival, Native Americans were already well-versed in the many uses of cranberries, using them as a potent red dye, and even using their sharp leaves as natural toothbrushes that doubled as dental floss! For the pilgrims who arrived at Plymouth Rock without a sugar supply, cooking cranberry sauce was a daunting task, as the berries are so tart. Marcus Urann canned the first jellied cranberry sauce in 1912 to form what is now known as Ocean Spray.

  1. Who was the first U.S. President to ever pardon a turkey?

Presidential pardons are highly sought after in America. And lucky is the turkey whose life is spared on Thanksgiving at the White House. Although it is not perfectly clear who pardoned the first turkey, it is thought that President Lincoln pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey. Harry Truman was rumored to have pardoned a turkey or two. President Kennedy famously said of one turkey, “We’ll just let this one grow,” being among the first American presidents to spare a turkey's life. But the annual tradition of "pardoning" a turkey officially started with George H.W. Bush in 1989.

  1. Why did this President try to move the date of Thanksgiving?

In 1939, the Thanksgiving holiday was set to happen on November 30, thus compressing the Christmas shopping season at a time when the country was digging out of the Great Depression and retailers were still struggling for sales. He decreed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated a week early - but not just any week early. He planned to celebrate it on November 23rd, which was mockingly referred to as “Franksgiving”. Congress then established that Thanksgiving would officially always be celebrated every year on the 4th Thursday of November.

  1. Which President was given a raccoon on Thanksgiving?

On Thanksgiving 1926, a man from Mississippi sent President Coolidge a live raccoon as a present. The Coolidge family, having no intention of eating the animal, named it Rebecca and kept her as a pet. In the following years, they also adopted a black bear, a wallaby, and Billy-Bobs the pygmy hippo.

We know that during Thanksgiving dinners, the main event is the meals! But with all the feasting, you should take some time out to be reminded of the meaning of this beautiful fall holiday. Have fun with your guests and family around the table! While you pass the mashed potatoes, pick a couple of these Thanksgiving trivia facts from your bag of tricks. It’s sure to keep the conversations fun and exciting and prevent you from just scrolling through your phone while at the dinner table.