Things You Didn’t Know about Thanksgiving

Many students know the history of Thanksgiving. Pilgrims (people who left England for religious freedom and new opportunities) moved to the northeastern part of the United States to start a new life. It was very difficult in the beginning, and a lot of people died. However, the British and the Native Americans became friends, and soon, there was enough food for everyone. They celebrated their success for three days in 1621, and that was the first Thanksgiving.

Here are some things you might NOT know about Thanksgiving:

  • The pilgrims probably didn’t eat many of the foods at the first Thanksgiving that Americans eat now. They probably did not have turkey, pumpkin pie, or potatoes!
  • George Washington announced the first national Thanksgiving holiday in 1789, 168 years after the pilgrims celebrated the first time.
  • In 1829, a woman named Sara Josepha Hale started writing letters to the president because she wanted Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. At that time, each state decided when it would celebrate. She wrote letters for 30 years! She wrote letters to at least five different presidents.
  • Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the whole country would celebrate Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November. This happened during the Civil War, and President Lincoln was trying to keep the country together. Maybe he hoped that a national holiday would help everyone feel united again.
  • In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Thanksgiving one week earlier. This was during the Great Depression, and Roosevelt wanted to give people more time to shop for Christmas presents so that businesses could get more money.
  • In 1941, Roosevelt officially changed the day of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November.
  • Every year, the president pardons (forgives, or gives no punishment to) a turkey on Thanksgiving. That turkey gets to retire on a farm instead of being eaten by a family.

This video includes all of the information I just gave you. Watch, listen, and see how much you can understand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9NDuxL4WA4

Your Turn

The answers to these questions are also in the video. Write a comment, and tell us which ones you heard!

  1. How many deer did the Indians kill to give as gifts to the colonists?
  2. What do we call the meat of a deer?
  3. How did the pilgrims eat cranberries at the first Thanksgiving?
  4. Why did Sara Josepha Hale want to have a Thanksgiving celebration?
  5. Name 3 recipes written by Sara Josepha Hale.
  6. How did people feel about President Roosevelt moving the date of Thanksgiving?
  7. Who was the first president to pardon a turkey?

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