Turkey feasts at Aunt Martha’s. Sitting around a large table with relatives you only see once a year. Eating way too much pumpkin pie. For most of us, this is the extent of our Thanksgiving celebration. If you want to get all historical, back in school we learned about the Pilgrims befriending the Native Americans after landing on Plymouth Rock and how they celebrated the first Thanksgiving together in 1621. In a nutshell, it was a bountiful harvest and everyone became friends. Or so we were told. Here are some little-known facts about Thanksgiving that might surprise you.
No turkey: Contrary to popular belief, turkey was not served at the first Thanksgiving. Deer, various types of fowl and different types of fish were served. Other foods not present at the first Thanksgiving included: mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. So what was served at the initial feast? Lobster, rabbit, chicken, goat cheese, maple syrup and cabbage, to name a few.
Not everyone was a Pilgrim: Of the 102 people that traveled on the Mayflower, only approximately half of them were actual Pilgrims. The other travelers, known as “Strangers,” were essentially “carpooling” to the New World with the Pilgrims.
Not official until the twentieth century: Congress did not declare Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1941. Now, Thanksgiving officially takes place on the fourth Thursday of November every year. Funny fact: Thomas Jefferson said that the concept of Thanksgiving was “the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.” George Washington, however, didn’t share his sentiments.
Not intended to be a feast: The first Thanksgiving wasn’t intended to be a festive group gathering. The Plymouth Rock pilgrims saw it as a time of fasting, but that changed when the Native Americans brought them food and helped them build off the land.
“Turkey Bells”: The song that we’ve all grown to love and associate with Christmastime was originally composed as a Thanksgiving song in 1857 by James Pierpoint for his Boston Sunday School students. So “Jingle Bells” ended up catching on as a Christmas song after being well-received at Thanksgiving. And from that point on…it stuck.