Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. It is like an excuse to enjoy sweet desserts, a bountiful feast of dishes including turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin spice, and share stories with family and friends this holiday season. But do you know the history of Thanksgiving, and when was Thanksgiving declared a national holiday? If you’re curious about the root of this holiday, take a look at some interesting facts about Thanksgiving.
What is Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is an American annual holiday that is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
When was Thanksgiving declared a national holiday?
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast that is commonly known as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. The festival lasted three days.
As years went on, days of Thanksgiving were observed by individual colonies and states.
In addition to the original meal shared in 1621, Pilgrims also organized their second Thanksgiving in 1623 to commemorate the end of a long drought.
A darker Thanksgiving happened in 1637 when the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared a day of Thanksgiving to mark the safe return of men who’d slaughtered a Pequot village. For the next few centuries—and even until now—colonists and Native Americans would share a conflict-ridden existence ravaged by carnages, enslavement, and population-decimating disease.
However, technically, the first official Thanksgiving holiday took place in 1789 when President George Washington advocated for a public day of thanks to celebrating the end of the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Constitution.
But Thanksgiving was only officially put on the calendar in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, at the behest of writer and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, who attempted to help the country heal from the trauma of the Civil War through the holiday. She was called the “Mother of Thanksgiving” thanks to her efforts in establishing Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday.
Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?
Turkeys are an indispensable part of Thanksgiving. Do you know why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? There are a few different factors for why eat turkey on this special day.
First, according to letters from William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth in 1621, wild turkeys were part of the original meal that was shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Strictly speaking, wild turkeys could be turkeys, which were native to the area, but historians believe that it was likely ducks or geese.
In addition, when Thanksgiving was a more prominent celebration, turkeys were more plentiful. That made them the main dish.
Especially, we must thank Sarah Josepha Hale for this established aspect of Thanksgiving as well. In her 1827 novel Northwood, she wrote a New England Thanksgiving in wonderful detail, including the description of a roasted turkey “placed at the head of the table.”
Why is Thanksgiving on a Thursday?
Because Saturday was filled with preparations for the Sabbath, and Monday was the day just after, these were not great options. Friday was eliminated because it was the fast day of the Catholic Church and any day of prayer held on a Friday would have had Rome-ish overtones.
Still, Thursday was a lecture day in Boston. Ministers gave afternoon sermons for those with free time to participate in weekday religious meetings. So, Thursday early was the ideal day for fasts and Thanksgiving. Though other days were sometimes selected, Thursday became the traditional option.
What to do on Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is not complete without some interesting activities and games. This year, plan to create another tradition or two for your family to observe. Here are some popular things to do on Thanksgiving that everyone will enjoy.
Play Fun Thanksgiving Games
Come up with some fun turkey games that kids and adults will enjoy. You can make trivia cards or play turkey bingo after dinner and before dessert.
Take a Family Hike
It’s great to get active before digging into all delicious food with a family walk or hike. What’s better than immerse yourself in nature?
Have a Family Photoshoot
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity when your family members gather, so if you’ve got everyone together, there’s no reason not to snap some family photos. You don’t need to hire a professional, just go outside and use the timer on your camera or phone. It’s great if all your family members wear matching outfits. The most important thing is that everyone feels joyful.
Plan a Nearby Getaway
It’s wonderful to plan a family vacation for Thanksgiving. You can find turkey anywhere. Just ensure to check any local travel advisories.
Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
No matter how old are you, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will always get you in the holiday spirit. Kids will enjoy watching the floats go by and waiting for Santa’s big appearance at the end.
Decorate for the Holidays
While we’re thinking about Christmas being nearly coming, why not spend Thanksgiving afternoon getting ready to decorate this weekend? Dig out those boxes of ornaments and great holiday decor to prepare for the coming season.
Are there any elderly people n your neighborhood who will be alone for Thanksgiving? Lend your hand at a soup kitchen, or food pantry to help those in need. In addition, you can put together a box of canned goods and non-perishables to donate to your local food pantry. Some towns even have Thanksgiving drives that distribute turkeys and other holiday favorites foods to families in need, so look out for those opportunities.
It’s also a great way to teach your children a vital lesson, particularly on a day devoted to giving thanks. Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have, but it’s also a fantastic start to join your community and make a difference to someone else.
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Hopefully, this post will help you know when was Thanksgiving declared a national holiday. If you’re interested in interesting Thanksgiving presents or happy Thanksgiving messages, check out our Thanksgiving Guide.