What do you know about Thanksgiving?
News N’ Views
Father Richard F. Gorman
Community Board #12 (The Bronx)
BRONX, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 26- Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday. It originated in the New World. Even before it became a national holiday established by law, generations of Americans celebrated a day of thanksgiving for blessings received. Americans, despite diversity in faith traditions, racial and ethnic background, economic status, gender, age, or physical and mental condition uniformly anticipate and celebrate Thanksgiving Day.
One could suppose, then, that Americans know all that is fact about Thanksgiving. Do they? How about you, neighbors and friends? For example, do you know any or all of the following …
- The first Thanksgiving Day was held in the Autumn of 1621, included 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians, and lasted three days. Many historians believe that only five women were present at that first Thanksgiving, as many women settlers didn't survive that difficult first year in the New World.
- Thanksgiving didn't become a national holiday until over 200 years later. Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who actually wrote the classic song “Mary Had a Little Lamb” convinced President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, after writing letters for 17 years campaigning for this to happen.
- Historians say that no turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving. What was on the menu? Deer or venison, ducks, geese, oysters, lobster, eel and fish were. They probably ate pumpkins, but no pumpkin pies. They also did not eat mashed potatoes or cranberry relish, but they probably ate cranberries. There were no “Turduckens” -- i.e., a turkey stuffed with a duck that is stuffed with a chicken. These were nowhere to be found during that first Thanksgiving.
- The first Thanksgiving was eaten with spoons and knives, but no forks! Forks were not even introduced to the Pilgrims until 10 years later and were not a popular utensil until the eighteenth century. The Pilgrims, prior to utilizing forks, did use their fingers, however.
- Thanksgiving is the reason for T.V. dinners. In 1953, Swanson had so much extra turkey -- 260 tons -- that a salesman told them they should package it onto aluminum trays with other sides like sweet potatoes. Ergo, the first T.V. dinner was born!
- Thanksgiving was almost a fast and not a feast! The early settlers gave thanks by praying and abstaining from food, which is what they planned on doing to celebrate their first harvest, that is, until the Wampanoag Indians joined them and -- lucky for us! -- turned their fast into a three-day feast!
- Each year, the President of the United States pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. The first turkey pardon ceremony started with President Harry S. Truman in1947.
- Why is Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November? President Abraham Lincoln said Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November, but, in 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved it up a week hoping it would help improve the Christmas shopping season and spur the economy during the Depression era. It never caught on and it was changed back two years later.
- The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924 with 400 employees marching from Convent Ave to 145TH Street in New York City. No large balloons were at this parade, as it featured only live animals from Central Park Zoo.
- Turkey is not responsible for drowsiness or the dreaded "food coma." Scientists say that extra glass of wine, the high-calorie meal or relaxing after a busy work schedule is what makes one drowsy!
- How did the tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving start? The National Football League started the Thanksgiving Classic Games in 1920 and, since then, the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted games on Turkey Day. In 2006, a third game was added with different teams hosting.
- Wild turkeys can run 20 miles per hour when they are scared, but domesticated turkeys are bred are heavier and cannot run quite that fast.
- Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States instead of the eagle.
- Americans eat 46,000,000 turkeys each Thanksgiving.
- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's first meal in space after walking on the moon was foil packets with roasted turkey.
- The heaviest turkey on record, according to the Guinness Book of Records, weighed 86 pounds.
- Californians consume the most turkey in the United States on Thanksgiving Day!
- Female turkeys, called “hens,” do not gobble. Only male turkeys gobble.
- The average turkey for Thanksgiving weighs 15 pounds.
- Campbell's soup created green bean casserole for an annual cookbook 50 years ago. It now sells $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup.
So how many of these pearls of wisdom did you know? Regardless of your expertise in Thanksgiving Day trivia, there is one most important thing that all of us know-- viz., that the need for and the origin of Thanksgiving Day both spring from a common yearning to acknowledge God’s loving goodness and His munificent generosity to us. Join me, then, fulfilling this need rooted in the very core of our being by praying these words, taken from the Preface of the Roman Catholic Mass for Thanksgiving Day:
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks.
We acknowledge You as the Lord of all Nations,
the Creator of land, and sea, and sky,
the Source of the wonders of nature and salvation.
Through Your Word You called all things into being,
that You might bestow on us Your love
reflected in the vastness of the universe
and the bounty of this earth.
You placed creation in our care,
yet You alone sustain all life with the gentle dew of Your Word
and the life-giving breath of Your Spirit.
Your gifts of nature have not exhausted Your goodness,
for the fullness of Your love is revealed by the imparting
of the manifold gifts of Your Grace.
Our hearts are moved to thankful praise,
and so we join the choirs of angels and saints
in proclaiming Your glory.
Happy Thanksgiving! See you after the feast!