It’s common knowledge that Thanksgiving is the day where you eat a bunch of turkey (or tofurkey, if that’s how your family swings), stuffing, and potatoes and hope your uncle doesn’t get too drunk and tell inappropriate jokes. Thankfully my uncles don’t partake in this tradition, but I’ve heard plenty of awkward stories from others.
But, this holiday which prides itself on being thankful for what we have has quite a history behind it. To get more educated on the history of Thanksgiving, here are five fun facts you might not have known about the holiday known as “the last day before we officially think about Christmas shopping.”
1. The First Thanksgiving Likely Served Up Deer – Not Turkey
The first Thanksgiving was a 3-day harvest feast held in Massachusetts in 1621, attended by the English Protestant settlers (aka “Pilgrims”) and the tribe of the Wampanoag. Though the area had plenty of wild turkeys, their meal consisted of venison, shellfish, and corn. Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow noted in his journal that the Wampanoag guests arrived with the offering of five deer. Many historians speculate that the deer were roasted on a spit over a smoldering fire and were probably turned into a stew.
2. Every Year, The President Pardons A Turkey
White House myth-makers (those scoundrels!) have claimed that President Harry S. Truman began this holiday tradition after notably receiving a turkey, but it wasn’t until the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush in 1989 that a turkey was officially pardoned for the first time. From 2005 to 2010, the turkeys were then flown to Disneyland after the ceremony, where they serve as grand marshals of the theme park’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Once that was over, they retired over at Frontierland. Nowadays the turkeys have been hanging out in Mount Vernon, which is George Washington’s Northern Virginia home.
3. Snoopy Has Been In The Thanksgiving Parade Longer Than Any Other Balloon
Who doesn’t love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? You can watch celebrities lip-sync on floats, and hope that a balloon doesn’t hit a lamp post and deflate, like that tragic 1993 incident involving Sonic the Hedgehog. .
.And of course, Santa Claus is there at the end.
It should be known that Snoopy was notably absent in last year’s parade, which brought a lot of outrage. People even petitioned to bring him back, and were quite successful. This year will be his 37th year in the parade.
“As the many millions of Macy’s Parade fans know, Snoopy and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are synonymous and this seventh iteration of this magnificent beagle and his rascally friend Woodstock will carve an indelible image in the sky as he has ever since the late 1960s,” Amy Kule, executive producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, said in a statement.
4. Thanksgiving Helped Inspire TV Dinners
Part of the reason why Swanson started creating TV dinners in 1953 was because they needed to find something to do with the massive amount of leftover frozen Thanksgiving turkeys. The first Swanson-brand TV dinner was produced in the United States and consisted of a “Thanksgiving meal” of turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.
5. Cranberries Used To Be Known For Being Medicinal First, And A Side Dish Second
While an estimated 21 million pounds of cranberry sauce is eaten each Thanksgiving , and over 94% of American families incorporate cranberries into their holiday meal, they used to serve a completely different purpose. Cranberries were first used by Native Americans, who discovered the wild berry’s versatility as a fabric dye and healing agent as well as a food. Cranberries were also later found to prevent scurvy.
European settlers adopted the Native American uses for the fruit, and found them to be a valuable bartering tool. Imagine if that was the same today – you might be able to get a new iPhone by trading 400,000 cranberries. Or maybe a used copy of The Cranberries second CD release, No Need to Argue, for 5 cranberries.
What are your favorite facts about Thanksgiving? What’s the typical dinner look like at your house? And now that Snoopy’s back – are you more excited about the parade this year?
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Brent Hofacker (featured)