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Thanksgiving

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1620-1621
1676
1777
1789-1862
1863-1938
1939-1940
1941-Present



1620-1621
This is a tough thing for historians to determine.  We do know for sure, according to primary sources, that venison (deer meat) and wild fowl were served.  There are other foods we are fairly certain were served and many more foods that we know were NOT served.  Here is a list of food that we believe was had at the first Thanksgiving feast:

  1. Venison
  2. Wild fowl-  They could have had wild turkey, but it was most likely that they had seasonal waterfowl like ducks and/or geese.
  3. Cranberries, but NO cranberry sauce-  If they did have cranberries, they were served for tartness or color.  It wasn't until half a century later that cranberries were sweetened and made into sauces to accompany meat.
  4. Squash or pumpkins, but NO pumpkin pie-  They might have had pumpkins or some kind of squash, but they certainly didn't have butter or wheat flour for making crust.  And even if they did have pie-fixings, they hadn't even built a baking oven, yet.
  • What foods did they NOT have at the first Thanksgiving feast?:
  1. NO pumpkin pie
  2. NO cranberry sauce
  3. NO potatoes of any kind
  • How was the table set and how did the Pilgrims eat their food?:
Pilgrims didn't have forks.  They ate their food with spoons, knives, and their fingers.  Salt was on the table and they sprinkled it on their food.  Pepper was used in cooking, but not available on the table.  They wiped their hands on big cloth napkins, which they also used to handle hot pieces of food.

1676
  • The first Thanksgiving Proclamation ever issued was in 1676 in a town called Charlestown, Massachusetts.  By unanimous vote the governing council had clerk, Edward Rawson, make June 29th the day of Thanksgiving.
1777
  • The Continental Congress in 1777 first officially proclaimed Thanksgiving as a holiday.  Keep in mind they didn't set an annual date for Thanksgiving or even thought that it was going to be held more than once.  This was also before the time of U.S. Presidents.
1789-1862
  • Several people wanted to have an official day of Thanksgiving, including George Washington, who proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789.  He did it again in 1795.  Several people did not want an official day of Thanksgiving, including President Thomas Jefferson.
  • Different Presidents and governors would hold Thanksgiving at various times, and it was far from being an organized holiday.
  • Annually, every President after Washington, and before Lincoln, had to proclaim which day in November Thanksgiving was going to be held.  It was not always the last Thursday in November.  That came with Lincoln.
  • Most people, for most years since Washington's time, celebrated Thanksgiving.
  • Sarah J. Hale, a magazine editor, began her campaign to make Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1827.  It wasn't until 1863 that her urging to reinstate Thanksgiving and make it official got the approval of President Abraham Lincoln.
1863-1938
  • In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.
1939-1940
  • Every President since Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving except for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In 1939, 1940, and 1941 he proclaimed the THIRD Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving.  Why?  To lengthen the Christmas shopping season and stimulate the economy.  This upset people.
1941-present
  • It was not until 1941 that Congress declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.  They passed an official proclamation making it legal.  It was established to be the fourth Thursday of November.