In celebration of Thanksgiving, which is now celebrated not only in the US but all around the world, we decided to bring together some of the more interesting tidbits about America’s favourite national holiday. Did you know, for instance, that the first ever Thanksgiving meal didn’t include turkey? Read on to find out more…
- The first ever Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 at the Plymouth colony, and was a secular event held between 52 Pilgrims and 50 Wampanoag Indians.
- Thanksgiving didn’t become a national celebration until over a hundred years later, when the Continental Congress made the first national celebration of Thanksgiving in 1775. President Abraham Lincoln declared it as a federal holiday again almost a hundred years later in 1863.
- While a traditional Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce and desserts such as pumpkin or pecan pie, none of these were served in the first ever Thanksgiving meal. According to Edward Winslow, a guest at the first celebrations, the original meal involved corn, barley and fowl.
- Though pumpkins were a staple of the pilgrims’ diet, pumpkin pie wasn’t an American invention, but in fact a French one. A French chef, Francois Pierre la Varenne, featured the first recipe in his 1651 book, Le Vrai Cuisinier Francoise. He recommended boiling pumpkin pulp with milk, straining it and mixing it with sugar, butter and salt, before baking the mixture in a pastry shell.
- One of the most popular modern Thanksgiving traditions celebrated is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, which began in 1924 and was first televised in 1947, in which employees of the famous department store march helium balloons and animals from Central Park Zoo around the streets of New York.
- Turkey has often been blamed for making all those who dig into a Thanksgiving dinner want to fall asleep immediately afterwards, though scientists have now discovered otherwise. Although turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to causing drowsiness, scientists say that a number of factors, such as holiday stress, alcohol and indulging in large amounts of carbs all contribute to our post-meal sleepy state.
- Benjamin Franklin even tried to tout the turkey as the national bird of America, labelling it as a “much more respectable bird” than the official national bird, the eagle, which he said had “bad moral character”.
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Image: Satya Murthy, available under Creative Commons