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Surprising facts you never knew about Thanksgiving

Most of us have come to think of Thanksgiving as an opportunity to express our gratitude for the abundance in our lives, whether that’s the good relationships we have with our friends and families, our opportunities, our health — and to stuff ourselves with mashed potatoes, of course. But the holiday’s history is a bit more involved than just a commemoration of the gratitude we should share in our lives every day of the year. As it happens, the story of Thanksgiving has many layers. A woman named Sarah Josepha Hale lobbied Congress for years to make Thanksgiving an official holiday.If it wasn’t for this determined woman, Thanksgiving wouldn’t exist today. Hale’s allegiance to Thanksgiving began in 1827 and was based in national pride; she hoped to make it “permanently, an American custom and institution.” It wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln finally declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Seeing as the president did this in throws of the Civil War, Thanksgiving is considered by some to be an attempt on behalf of the president to bring some peace back to the country. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving.Roosevelt hoped that a lengthened holiday shopping season would increase spending and alleviate the crippling Depression. This resulted in two consecutive years of conflicting Thanksgiving Day celebrations, as some states refused to recognize the change.By 1941, FDR gave in and signed a bill making the fourth Thursday in November the official date for Thanksgiving nationwide, regardless of whether it’s the last Thursday of the month or not. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 featured live animals from the Central Park Zoo. Though the parade stretched just two blocks, New York City went all out for what newspapers were calling “a marathon of mirth.” In addition to four bands, a large Santa float, and costumed Macy’s employees, also participating in the parade were live animals from the zoo. Thanksgiving leftovers led to the first ever TV dinner.In 1953, the influential food corporation Swanson overestimated how much turkey would be consumed on Thanksgiving and had to get creative with the 260 tons of leftover meat. Using 5,000 aluminum trays and an assembly line of hand-packers, the corporation created a Thanksgiving-inspired meal with the aforementioned turkey, cornbread dressing and gravy, peas and sweet potatoes, selling the whole thing for a grand total of 98 cents. In the first full year of production, they sold ten million of them, and birthed the prepackaged frozen meal industry. There is a Canadian Thanksgiving.It’s celebrated in October and falls on a Monday. Over the centuries, their holiday tradition has changed from crop festivals to explorations to battle victories, and finally, a general opportunity to give thanks and express gratitude (not unlike the American celebration.)The British don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving, but some do celebrate “Brits-giving.” Oh yes, it’s a real thing. The British increasingly embrace the American tradition to celebrate gratitude and national pride. But it wouldn’t be a true British tribute without their own unique take on the holiday. Hence, the origination of “Brits-giving.”Thanksgiving Day football games began in the 1870s.Turkey Day football began long before the whole country could watch the sport on TV. In fact, football wasn’t even a professional sport when the Thanksgiving game tradition took hold. In 1876, Yale played Princeton in the first ever Thanksgiving Day football match. At that point, the sport was still evolving from a rugby hybrid into the game we know today. Games stayed on the college and high school level for nearly fifty years. Eventually, when the National Football League was founded in 1920, it began hosting as many as six Thanksgiving matches every year.

Most of us have come to think of Thanksgiving as an opportunity to express our gratitude for the abundance in our lives, whether that’s the good relationships we have with our friends and families, our opportunities, our health — and to stuff ourselves with mashed potatoes, of course. But the holiday’s history is a bit more involved than just a commemoration of the gratitude we should share in our lives every day of the year. As it happens, the story of Thanksgiving has many layers.

A woman named Sarah Josepha Hale lobbied Congress for years to make Thanksgiving an official holiday.

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If it wasn’t for this determined woman, Thanksgiving wouldn’t exist today. Hale’s allegiance to Thanksgiving began in 1827 and was based in national pride; she hoped to make it “permanently, an American custom and institution.” It wasn’t until 1863 that President Lincoln finally declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Seeing as the president did this in throws of the Civil War, Thanksgiving is considered by some to be an attempt on behalf of the president to bring some peace back to the country.

flag corn pumpkins

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In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving.

Roosevelt hoped that a lengthened holiday shopping season would increase spending and alleviate the crippling Depression. This resulted in two consecutive years of conflicting Thanksgiving Day celebrations, as some states refused to recognize the change.

By 1941, FDR gave in and signed a bill making the fourth Thursday in November the official date for Thanksgiving nationwide, regardless of whether it’s the last Thursday of the month or not.

thanksgiving facts, date of thanksgiving

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 featured live animals from the Central Park Zoo.

Though the parade stretched just two blocks, New York City went all out for what newspapers were calling “a marathon of mirth.” In addition to four bands, a large Santa float, and costumed Macy’s employees, also participating in the parade were live animals from the zoo.

thanksgiving facts, thanksgiving parade

Thanksgiving leftovers led to the first ever TV dinner.

In 1953, the influential food corporation Swanson overestimated how much turkey would be consumed on Thanksgiving and had to get creative with the 260 tons of leftover meat. Using 5,000 aluminum trays and an assembly line of hand-packers, the corporation created a Thanksgiving-inspired meal with the aforementioned turkey, cornbread dressing and gravy, peas and sweet potatoes, selling the whole thing for a grand total of 98 cents. In the first full year of production, they sold ten million of them, and birthed the prepackaged frozen meal industry.

thanksgiving facts, tv dinner

There is a Canadian Thanksgiving.

It’s celebrated in October and falls on a Monday. Over the centuries, their holiday tradition has changed from crop festivals to explorations to battle victories, and finally, a general opportunity to give thanks and express gratitude (not unlike the American celebration.)

thanksgiving facts, canadian thanksgiving

The British don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving, but some do celebrate “Brits-giving.”

Oh yes, it’s a real thing. The British increasingly embrace the American tradition to celebrate gratitude and national pride. But it wouldn’t be a true British tribute without their own unique take on the holiday. Hence, the origination of “Brits-giving.”

thanksgiving facts, british thanksgiving 

Thanksgiving Day football games began in the 1870s.

Turkey Day football began long before the whole country could watch the sport on TV. In fact, football wasn’t even a professional sport when the Thanksgiving game tradition took hold. In 1876, Yale played Princeton in the first ever Thanksgiving Day football match. At that point, the sport was still evolving from a rugby hybrid into the game we know today. Games stayed on the college and high school level for nearly fifty years. Eventually, when the National Football League was founded in 1920, it began hosting as many as six Thanksgiving matches every year.

princeton v yale football

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