The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States has always been filled with tradition, nostalgia and legends.
From its earliest beginnings with the Pilgrims and the Indians, Thanksgiving has been a great source of folklore, much of which was greatly embellished. Beyond the fantastic legends, there are some lesser-known facts surrounding one of America's most treasured holidays.
. Despite popular belief, the feast that took place in 1621 for three days between the Pilgrims and their Indian friends did not represent the first time there was a celebratory feast of thanksgiving for overcoming adversity. In 1598, Spanish colonists feasted in celebration of their perilous arrival at the Rio Grande and invited the local inhabitants to be their guests. In 1565, grateful Spaniards feasted with local Indian tribes in Florida as well. Precedent had already been set for a period of grateful reflection and lavish eating by the time the Pilgrims sat down to dinner.
. Pilgrims were not the official founders of the Thanksgiving holiday. It took 242 years for it to become a national holiday in the US. President Abraham Lincoln made it official in 1863. He also was the first to declare the fourth Thursday of November as the day of celebration.
. Back in 1621, the Pilgrims didn't know they were Pilgrims. They referred to themselves as Separatists, a term used to describe their separation from the Church of England. It wasn't until the 1700s that they became known as Pilgrims. In all likelihood, they never described themselves as being Pilgrims.
. Today's traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu bears little resemblance to what was likely served in 1621. Whether there was turkey on the menu at all is questionable and debatable. As far as pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce, well, those recipes didn't exist at that point. Potatoes, if they were served at all, were certainly not mashed and covered with gravy.
. The tableau of staunch Pilgrims dressed in black seated with Indians in feathered headdress is more of an artistic rendering than anything based in fact. Pilgrims were not confined to a colorless wardrobe, and feathered headdresses belonged to Indian tribes in the western US, not to those of New England stock.
. The Pilgrim thanksgiving affair was not a formal sit-down dinner as is so often pictured. Pilgrims and Indians alike arrived at random times during the three-day event to share whatever food was available at the time. There was no fine china or silverware. In fact, more food was probably consumed using fingers rather than forks.
The tales and legends woven through time about the origins and significance of Thanksgiving have helped it grow into the beloved holiday it is today. It is a welcomed time of reflection and gratitude for a world desperately needing to take a step back from the chaos to appreciate the bounty of life.
Today’s technology makes it easy to reach out to faraway friends and relatives who live across the country. Show them that you are thankful to have them in your life. Send beautiful Thanksgiving Gift Baskets by mail delivered to their door.