Little known facts about Thanksgiving

By Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
November 25, 2019 4:00 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This is a Fernandina Observer re-run of an article by Suanne Z. Thamm posted in November of 2015. We hope you enjoy.

T-birdFirst Fact: So the  Fernandina Observer staff can enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays,  we will take time off beginning Tuesday, November 26 through Sunday.  Our website, will up and available for reading throughout the holiday weekend.

And now for some little known facts about Thanksgiving, courtesy

  1. The famous pilgrim celebration at Plymouth Colony Massachusetts in 1621 is traditionally regarded as the first American Thanksgiving. However, there are actually 12 claims to where the “first” Thanksgiving took place: two in Texas, two in Florida, one in Maine, two in Virginia, and five in Massachusetts.


  1. Thanksgiving is an amalgam of different traditions, including ancient harvest festivals, the religious New England Puritan Thanksgiving, the traditional harvest celebrations of England and New England, and changing political and ideological assumptions of Native Americans.

  1. The Pilgrim’s thanksgiving feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 1. It lasted three days and included 50 surviving pilgrims and approximately 90 Wampanoag Indians, including Chief Massasoit. Their menu differed from modern Thanksgiving dinners and included berries, shellfish, boiled pumpkin, and deer
  1. Considered the “Mother of Thanksgiving,” Sara Hale (1788-1879) was an influential editor and writer who urged President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving. She selected the last Thursday in November because, as she said, harvests were done, elections were over, and summer travelers were home. She also believed a national thanksgiving holiday would unite Americans in the midst of dramatic social and industrial change and “awaken in Americans’ hearts the love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren.” She was also the first person to advocate women as teachers in public schools, the first to advocate day nurseries to assist working mothers, and the first to propose public playgrounds. She was also the author of two dozen books and hundreds of poems, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

sarah hale

  1. Since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually. However, various earlier presidents–including George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison–all urged Americans to observe various periods of thanksgiving.
  1. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the next-to-last Thursday in November to prolong the holiday shopping season, many Republicans rebelled. The holiday was temporarily celebrated on different dates: November 30 became the “Republican Thanksgiving” and November 23 was “Franksgiving” or “Democrat Thanksgiving.”
  1. Not all states were eager to adopt Thanksgiving because some thought the national government was exercising too much power in declaring a national holiday. Additionally, southern states were hesitant to observe what was largely a New England practice.d
  1. Thanksgiving football games began with Yale versus Princeton in 1876.


  1. The tradition of pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys began in 1947, though Abraham Lincoln is said to have informally started the practice when he pardoned his son’s pet turkey.
  1. Established in 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ties for second as the oldest Thanksgiving parade. The Snoopy balloon has appeared in the parade more often than any other character. More than 44 million people watch the parade on TV each year and 3 million attend in person. The nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade began in Philadelphia in 1920 and was sponsored by Gimbel’s Department Store. The first parade consisted of about 50 people with Santa Claus bringing up the rear.

Macy's parade