We're all familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims invited local Native Americans to share a meal with them. But we bet you didn’t know Thanksgiving
become an annual tradition until more than two hundred years later.
That first Thanksgiving in 1621 wasn’t just one big meal, it was a festival of eating, hunting and other entertainments in honor of the first successful harvest. The Indians killed five deer as gifts for the colonists, venison was definitely on the first Thanksgiving menu. But we bet you didn’t know that turkey was not! They also didn’t have pumpkin pie or potatoes, which introduced to New England yet and while they may have eaten cranberries, they plain, not in a sauce or relish.
The pilgrims didn’t plan starting a Thanksgiving tradition. In fact, they didn’t repeat the November celebration in subsequent years. In 1789, President George Washington announced the first ever National Thanksgiving Holiday, which on Thursday November 26th, but it didn’t become an annual tradition nationwide the nineteenth century. That’s when an American writer named Sara Josepha Hale, famous for writing the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, was inspired by a diary of Pilgrim life to recreate that first Thanksgiving feast. in 1827, Hale waged a nearly thirty-year campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She also published recipes pumpkin pie, turkey and stuffing that probably didn’t appear on the Pilgrims’ plates but become the staples of modern Thanksgiving meals.
In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the nation celebrate Thanksgiving every year on the final Thursday in November. But did you know in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move the holiday up a week to give the depression era retailers more time to money during the pre-Christmas shopping season? The move was widely and in 1941 FDR signed a bill fixing Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, where it stays today.
One of the quirkiest Thanksgiving traditions in 1989 when President George H.W. Bush granted the first official pardon to a turkey. November since then, the current Oval Office occupant has given a reprieve to one or two turkeys sending them into retirement on a farm than to a dinner table. Though it only began in the late twentieth century, the story one of the more unusual chapters in the long history of Thanksgiving traditions.