History and Origin of Thanksgiving
In the fall of 1621, at Plymouth Plantation, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Europeans, joined by a group of Wampanoag Indians, gathered together to thank God for the blessings of the first harvest in the New World. The Puritans who celebrated the first Thanksgiving were about half of those who arrived at Plymouth on the ship Mayflower, since the other half had died due to sicknesses and dangers in the New World.
The exact dates of the first Thanksgiving celebration, which lasted 3 days, is unknown. Plymouth Governor William Bradford declared a thanksgiving celebration, in 1621, sometime after the harvest. The days could have been between the end of September to the beginning of November.
Thanksgiving is an American and a Canadian holiday. Both countries celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of harvest: in Canada, it is the second Monday in October; in America, it is the fourth Thursday in November.
The first national Thanksgiving Day was issued by George Washington in 1789.
However, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was the first President to set Thanksgiving Day to be the last Thursday of November. Before 1863, Thanksgiving Day varied from year to year.
But it wasn’t until 1941 when Congress declared fourth Thursday of November to be a legal holiday.
First Thanksgiving Questioned
A Floridian Robyn Gioia has claimed that the first Thanksgiving was not the traditionally known 1621 Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation. Gioia, a 5th grade teacher, in her childern’s book America's REAL First Thanksgiving, asserted that the first Thanksgiving occurred on September 8, 1565, in St. Augustine, Florida, when a Spanish explorer and Timucua Indians celebrated together the first Thanksgiving meal—bean soup. (USA Today, 2007)
The Day After Thanksgiving
Friday after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because retailers hope that with plenty of sales, their sales numbers will no longer be in the red, but in the black.
Myth: many believe that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. Actually weekend days before Christmas are busier shopping days.
Black Friday is the busiest travel day in the United States.
Plumbers get 60% more phone calls on the day after Thanksgiving than they do on other days (Miami Herald).
Benjamin Franklin did not get his way to have the turkey to be the official bird of the United States. To his great disappointment, the bald eagle became the official US bird.
In 2008, about 271 million turkeys were raised in the United States.
The National Turkey Federation (NTF) estimated that Americans consumed 235 million turkeys in 2007. Americans consumed the highest number of turkeys during the following three holidays:
1. During Thanksgiving, Americans consumed 46 million turkeys (one fifth of the whole year consumption of turkeys).
2. During Christmas, Americans consumed 22 million turkeys.
3. During Easter, Americans consumed 19 million turkeys.
Since 1947, The National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with a live turkey. The live turkey is pardoned by the president and sent to Disneyland to live happily ever after.