The best thing about Thanksgiving is gathering around the table, stuffing your faces with turkey, and enjoying the pleasant and agreeable conversation with your extended family. Right? Well, to keep the happy conversation flowing, here’s some fun facts about Thanksgiving to keep your family distracted from explosive topics (you know what they are at your house) while they digest that second slice of pumpkin pie.
We associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but the holiday wasn’t official until October 3, 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.
It’s the sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving declaration. One hundred and fifty years ago, he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, and asked that those being thankful also “commend to His [God’s] tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” The President declared that Thanksgiving would be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November.
The tug-of-war between Thanksgiving and holiday shopping started years ago during the Great Depression. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy, which was still recovering from the Depression. Some states took matters into their own hands and defied the Presidential proclamation. Some Governors declared November 30th as Thanksgiving. And so, depending upon where one lived, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the 23rd and the 30th. This was reversed in 1941 when Congress passed and President Roosevelt approved a joint resolution establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Turkeys do not like to be dressed in people clothing, but we do it to them anyway.
Even Presidents don’t like certain vegetables. In 1977, the proposed menu for Thanksgiving dinner at Camp David included green peas with mushrooms, but a handwritten note states “Jimmy doesn’t especially like green peas.” And the suggested substitution of green beans is also restricted–fresh only, “not with frozen ones.”
The first President to pardon a turkey was President George H. W. Bush. Until then, the birds who were presented to the President each November ended up on the President’s Thanksgiving table. Now the pardoned birds live out their lives at a farm in Leesburg, Virginia.
In 1969, a total of approximately 2,800,000 pounds of turkey, 192,000 pounds of shrimp, 787,500 pounds of potatoes, 383,933 pounds of cranberry sauce and 350,000 pounds of fruitcake was distributed to U.S. military personnel around the world.
Here’s to a peaceful and delicious Thanksgiving!