It’s that time of the year when family and friends come together to give thanks and show their love through food and good times. Thanksgiving has been a time-honored tradition for generations and one would expect the classics to be played. A large feast, golden brown leaves, smiling loved ones, the Macy Day Parade and so many other traditions that have become a fixture in many families. The general history of Thanksgiving has been deeply implemented in our society so much so that some facts about this day have been lost in the shuffle.
While you take a break from your Thanksgiving celebration prep, we got some strange but interesting historical facts to share with you about Thanksgiving.
A Much Longer FeastThe day to give thanks normally lasts throughout a single day. Some of that time is spent in the form of a “food coma” after having eaten a piece of everything set at the dinner table. Yet, before the Thanksgiving we all know had first occurred hundreds of years ago, another culture celebrated in a very similar manner but the event lasted much, much longer. Native Hawaiians celebrated the longest thanksgiving in the world—Makahiki, which lasted four months, approximately from November through February. During this time, both work and war were forbidden.
Turkey is one of the many food items that can be expected to make an appearance on Thanksgiving. Whether it’s baked, smoked, fried, combined, or even made specifically with vegetarians or vegans in mind. One would be shocked to discover that this “gobble-gobble” bird might have not have been at the famous first Thanksgiving dinner between colonists and Native Americans. Historians and other students of the event are not quite sure if the bird that has become the centerpiece of our table was even on the menu back in 1621. However, they did indulge in other interesting foods like lobster, seal, and swan. The Wampanoag even brought five deer to the feast.
The Real US Bird
The bald eagle has been a national symbol throughout a majority of America’s history and is viewed as a metaphor for freedom from so many walks of life. The bird of prey is a majestic sight to see and have been a well-respected creature from many of America’s founding fathers...expect one. Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the official United States bird and was not happy when the bald eagle was chosen instead. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin referred to the eagle’s “bad moral character” and proclaimed, “For my own part I wish the Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country...for, in truth, turkey is in, comparison, a much more respectable bird.”
Turkeys Were Gods
Turkeys are plentiful across this planet and are seen as more than just a hot meal. There are people out there in the world that choose to keep this bird as a pet to be loved and part of a family as a dog or cat. But in 300 B.C., the birds were viewed by the Maya as vessels of the gods and honored accordingly. The birds were originally domesticated to play a part in religious rites. In Maya religion and culture, turkeys were once believed to be a symbol of power and prestige. Obviously, as time went on, these birds were found to suit other needs but are still treated carefully and with kindness for the duration of their life.
The Thanksgiving Hero
The national holiday had a bit of an uphill battle to reach where it is today--Thomas Jefferson refused to declare Thanksgiving as a holiday at one point. One of the advocates for celebrating Thanksgiving as a holiday is someone would go on to continuing making a name for themselves. Sara Josepha Hale (1788-1879) worked tirelessly to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday and a reason for the special day to always land on the last Thursday for the month of November.
She believed a national thanksgiving holiday would unite Americans in the midst of dramatic social and industrial change and said, “Awaken in Americans’ hearts the love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren.”
Hale also was the first person to advocate women as teachers in public schools, the first to advocate day nurseries assist for working mothers, and the first to propose public playgrounds. She was the author of two dozen books, hundreds of poems, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and is considered the “Mother of Thanksgiving” for her efforts to help make the Day of Thanks what it is today.