Are you ready for turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie? Here are 5 fun facts about Thanksgiving!
1. The first Thanksgiving was actually in October!
Although we commonly associate the November month with Thanksgiving, the original event took place in October of 1621. This is the famous date we all picture in our heads, with the Pilgrims (survivors of the Mayflower) and the Native American Wampanoag people coming together to celebrate a massive three-day feast.
2. Turkey was not always the featured entree.
Although turkey is the main food people now associate with Thanksgiving, it likely played a smaller role in the original feast. Historians don’t know exactly what the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people shared, but historical accounts indicate the meal consisted of venison (deer), assorted wildfowl (including turkeys, ducks, geese, and swans), as well as fish (cod and bass). In fact, some historians believe that much of the original meal featured seafood, especially with shellfish (like mussels) being common to the New England shoreline.
3. The original side dishes were different, too.
Stuffing is another Thanksgiving staple, but this likely wasn’t included in the original feast either. Thanksgiving was originally a celebration of the harvest, which meant fresh produce was bountiful. Historians believe the Pilgrims and Native Americans dined on local vegetables, including onions, beans, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. Corn was also plentiful, and was usually prepared into a cornmeal to be used in porridge. Fruits indigenous to the region also included blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries!
Mashed potatoes, another Thanksgiving favorite, were also not present at the original feast. We actually know this for a fact because potatoes were not brought to North America until 1719!
4. Pumpkins were common, but not pumpkin pie.
Historians know that both the Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe both ate squashes indigenous to the region. This most certainly included pumpkins! However, the settlers had no way of making butter or wheat flour for pie crust. Instead, they likely enjoyed pumpkin mashed into a custard with milk, honey, and spices.
5. Thanksgiving didn’t become an “official” US holiday until 1863.
Although harvest festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations had long been commonplace, Thanksgiving as we know it today didn’t “officially” become recognized until 1863 – by none other than Abraham Lincoln.
It’s also important to note that Lincoln proclaimed this holiday in the midst of the US Civil War. Much like the Thanksgiving feast of 1621 brought the Pilgrims and Wampanoag together, Lincoln had hoped that such a holiday might help to “heal the wounds of the nation.”