Most of us grew up hearing the story of Thanksgiving. How Pilgrims made their way across the Atlantic to settle the New World and in 1621, Puritans in Plymouth, Massachusetts, along with members of the Wampanoag Nation, had a feast giving thanks for a bountiful harvest.
Obviously that is the simple, sanitized version of how things went down.
Today families come together; turkey gets served, and we eat until our buttons burst as we fall into a deep tryptophan-induced coma in front of the football game. But a lot has happened to take us from Puritanical thanking to family bingeing.
Here are seven things you may not know about Thanksgiving.
1. Thanksgivings Existed Before It Existed
While we tend to think of Thanksgiving as a specifically North American holiday (with Canadians celebrating in October), its roots lie somewhere between the harvest festivals celebrated by Pagans and later as special thanksgiving ceremonies that occurred in England during the English Reformation.
2. A Traditional Thanksgiving Feast Should Include Deer And Eel
While turkey is the centerpiece of today’s Thanksgiving, it was only one small part of the first meal. In addition to turkey other birds such as goose, duck and passenger pigeons were most likely also consumed.
Besides fowl, deer were hunted, and shellfish like lobster, clams and mussels were also brought to the table. And eels, which were abundant during the fall and easy to trap, were certainly on the Thanksgiving Day table.
3. Canadians Beat America To Thanksgiving By 43 Years
While America was enjoying its first Thanksgiving in 1621, the Canadians had already been doing it for decades. While not quite as deliberate, their tradition dates back to 1578 when explorer Martin Frobisher, who was searching for a Northern passage to the Pacific, stopped in present day Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving his arduous journey.
4. The Pilgrims Made Up Less Than Half The People Aboard The Mayflower
While we might presume that all 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower were anti-government religious separatists looking for a free land to practice (some things never change), the majority of them, 61, were adventure seekers and explorers looking to cash in on opportunities in a new land.
5. A Famous Poet Persuaded Abraham Lincoln To Make Thanksgiving A National Holiday
Magazine editor and “Mary Had A Little Lamb” poet Sarah Josepha Hale had lobbied multiple Presidential administrations about creating a National Thanksgiving Day holiday to no avail. Up to this point, each state had been deciding when to celebrate on their own. Lincoln listened, and on October 3rd, 1863, he made a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday in November for Thanksgiving.
6. We Should Be Singing “Jingle Bells” During Thanksgiving – And It’s Dirty
James Lord Pierpont wrote “Jingle Bells,” or as it was originally published, “One Horse Open Sleigh,” as a Thanksgiving song in the autumn of 1857. While some say he wrote it for a Sunday school choir, others claim its lyrics is actually far too racy to sing at Sunday school.
So what’s racy? Often used as a drinking song at parties, the rarely sung second verse tells the story of a certain Miss Fanny Bright sitting by his side, alone, through a field. The last lyric of that verse “and then we got upsot,” also refers to them getting hammered.
7. Thomas Jefferson Thought Thanksgiving Was Just The Worst
If one ever needed proof that our Founding Fathers believed in the separation of church and state, look no further than Thomas Jefferson.
During his eight years as President he never once recognized the holiday calling it “the most ridiculous idea,” and going even further by saying, “civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”
For more stories like this, check out 8 Bizarre Food Superstitions, as well as The 6 Essential Utensils You Are Dead-In-The-Kitchen Without.