Thanksgiving trivia are a dime a dozen online, but how well do you really know what the holiday is about? Have you ever wondered when did Thanksgiving start? While we know the basics, which were taught in school, there’s more to this holiday than what you might have first thought. To help you celebrate better and enlighten you more about the facts, here is some important Thanksgiving history you should know about.
1. When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?
The amendment to make every fourth Thursday of November an official national holiday was signed on December 26, 1941 by President Roosevelt.
2. Which US President Made Thanksgiving a National Holiday?
It was President Abraham Lincoln who first declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 – despite the fact that country was in the middle of the Civil War. This was later amended and made official by President Roosevelt.
3. What Day is Thanksgiving This Year?
Thanksgiving 2020 is on Thursday, November 26.
The History of Thanksgiving
To trace how turkey day started, we have to travel all the way back to 1620. This was when the Mayflower, a small ship carrying 102 passengers, left Plymouth, England in search of prosperity in the New World.
According to historical facts, the ship took over 66 days before it arrived at Cape Cod. It would be another month before they would reach Massachusetts where the Pilgrims, as they came to be known, began work on establishing their colony.
Their first winter had been brutal and many of them stayed aboard the ship. Many of the colonists also suffered from exposure and outbreaks of contagious disease. In the end, only half of Mayfair’s original passengers survived to actually be at the first Thanksgiving.
Contrary to the friendly image portrayed by some sources, the Pilgrims — Separatists — were not exactly respectful of the land and its people when they first arrived. What some US history trivia won’t tell you is that they actually stole from the homes of Natives, looted from graves, and even raided storage pits when their resources began to dwindle.
Though these aren’t the usual Thanksgiving trivia facts you find online, these are all key information to learning more about the history of Thanksgiving.
All that stealing eventually led to their first hostile encounter with the Natives. None of the Pilgrims were killed, however, and they eventually moved to Plymouth.
The Land of the Wampanoag
The Wampanoag are one of the few remaining original inhabitants of the land now known as Plymouth. Their name means People of the First Light and they called their home The Dawn Land. In the 1600s, there were as many as 40,000 of them in the 67 villages that made up the Wampanoag Nation. Long before the pilgrims came, they had already claimed the land as their own and were trading with Europeans from all over.
When the Pilgrims finally made it to Plymouth, they were welcomed by Samoset, an Abenaki sachem, who spoke to them in English. It was he who told the colony that they were, in fact, building on land that belonged to the Wampanoag. This parcel of land was previously the village of Patuxet, but its residents were wiped out by the epidemic.
Eager to trade and start life anew, the Pilgrims struck a deal with Samoset. The sachem would return five days later, bringing furs and a very interesting set of companions.
Thanksgiving Trivia: The Story of Squanto
Tisquantum or Squanto was among the company Samoset brought back with him. Now, when it comes to Thanksgiving history, Squanto played a significant part. Perhaps you’ve seen his name in a Thanksgiving quiz? If not, here are a few quick historical facts about him.
- Squanto was a member of the Patuxet tribe.
- Years prior, he had been kidnapped by an English sea captain who later sold him to slavery.
- He managed to escape to London and then returned to his homeland together with an exploratory expedition.
- Sadly, upon returning home, he found that his entire tribe had been wiped out by an epidemic.
It was Squanto and the Wampanoag who would help the remaining Pilgrims survive. With their help, the colony learned how to cultivate corn, catch fish, avoid all the poisonous plants, and even extract the sweet sap of maple trees.
A cool bit of Thanksgiving trivia, right?
The First Thanksgiving
The Wampanoag and the colony didn’t just cultivate the land. They also nurtured an alliance that would last for 50 years. This might not seem like a big deal, but back then? It was unheard of.
Ready for a crazy Thanksgiving trivia? This alliance is the only example of harmony between the Native Americans and the European colonists. All the other instances, as you might already know, ended in tragedy.
This alliance isn’t the only thing both factions can be grateful for. By November of 1621, the Pilgrims successfully harvested their first batch of corn. Governor William Bradford hosted a feast, the first Thanksgiving celebration, in honor of their bounty.
The First Thanksgiving Facts: Bradford vs. Winslow
As it tends to happen when it comes to history, there are two varying accounts of the first Thanksgiving feast. According to Governor Bradford, this is what happened:
- They invited the Wampanoag, as thanks for the help they provided.
- Chief Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag tribe, had also been invited to the feast.
- The celebrations lasted for three whole days.
Here are a few things you can add to your list of easy trivia questions. The Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow has a slightly different version of events, however. According to him:
- The Wampanoag were not initially invited. Instead, they were drawn to the colony by the sound of gun fire.
- These guns were fired by the Pilgrims themselves, brought on by the exuberance of their celebrations.
- While harvest had been bountiful, there was not enough food and the Wampanoag went and hunted five deer. They shared this with the rest of the colony.
Fun Facts About Thanksgiving: The First Turkey Day Menu:
- According to Thanksgiving history facts, most of the dishes would have been prepared using traditional Native American cooking methods.
- Contrary to what most American Thanksgiving day feasts offer, there were no pies, cakes, and other desserts on the table.
- Here’s a fun Thanksgiving trivia for you: None of the records about the feast ever mentioned turkeys as having been part of the meal.
Add that to your collection of weird Thanksgiving trivia. We’re sure, you’ll surprise many as there are a lot of misconceptions about what really happened during the first Thanksgiving. This includes some very controversial bits of Thanksgiving History.
A National Day of Mourning: The Real History of Thanksgiving
What is the real story behind the American Thanksgiving? While many go about their Thanksgiving celebrations without worry, there are also those who see the holiday differently. It is no secret that many historical facts have been greatly white-washed and this includes the real events that occurred during the first Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Trivia: People of the First Light
As we have established, the land the Pilgrims sought to settle in had already been inhabited. The area now known as Southern New England was home to many Native communities, who were known as the People of the First Light and their home was called the Dawn Land.
Historical facts prove that they had been trading with Europeans for over a hundred years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. However, the relationship between both factions soured due to deceitful traders who kidnapped locals and sold them as slaves.
Here’s a Particularly Dark Bit of US History Trivia:
The disease that wiped out Squanto’s tribe was brought by European traders to the Dawn Land. During The Great Dying, which lasted from 1616 to 1619, over 90% of the communities were rendered extinct. Massasoit, the head sachem of the Wampanoag, knew that his tribe was in danger. Not just by disease, but by their other enemy: the Narragansett.
You would think this information is nothing but a piece of obscure Thanksgiving trivia given the fact that so few people know about it.
Interesting Trivia Questions: What Was Squanto’s Devious Plan?
So far, we’ve only seen Squanto’s merits. However, even he was not immune to the call of power. He was the only English speaker in his tribe and saw this as an opportunity to rise in rank. His plan? Overthrow Massasoit and become the new chief of the Wampanoag.
Here’s one of the hard trivia questions you might have encountered before. How did Squanto proceed with his plan?
- He was able to persuade the locals into believing that he had command of the Pilgrims.
- He made them believe that with the weapons brought by the English, they would be able to defeat the Narragansett
- All of the above.
The answer is all of the above. He was quite the sneaky one, but not enough to fool Hobamok who was sent to watch over him. Hobamok discovered Squanto’s plan and informed Massasoit. The sachem demanded for the interpreter to be beheaded.
The New Arrivals
As Thanksgiving history facts have recorded, a new ship carrying 60 more Pilgrims arrived near the area known today as Boston. This delayed Squanto’s sentence, but also increased the tension between the colonies and the Natives. These new arrivals were abusive to the locals, which initiated the conspiracy to kill off the colonists.
Informed of the plot, the Pilgrims struck first. Peace was upheld for some time, but after Massasoit’s death, the new colonizers were not too interested in alliances. Eventually, they also began to outnumber the Natives.
To these new generations, better known as Puritans, the Native Americans were savages and godless. They were supposedly everything that went against their beliefs. They sought to convert the Natives and those who refused were to be killed. According to historical facts, it was genocide that took place on the Dawn Lands.
This is the reason why American Thanksgiving is considered by many to also be a national day of mourning.
Thanksgiving Tradition Trivia
Despite the dark history, this occasion is still widely celebrated in the United States. There are many different traditions surrounding it and interesting bits of historical trivia that we’re sure you’ll find interesting. Here are our favorites!
The Macy’s Parade Was Meant to be a Christmas Parade
Here’s a fun Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade trivia. While the parade happens during Thanksgiving morning, did you know that it isn’t meant to be associated with this holiday at all? They simply chose the day because most parents were off of work and families could spend the day outside together.
Benjamin Franklin Wanted The Turkey to Become The National Bird
Here’s a funny Thanksgiving trivia for you. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin wrote about how he wishes for the turkey to have been chosen as representative of the country, instead of the Bald Eagle. According to him, the turkey is a far more “respectable bird.”
Snoopy Holds the Record for Most Appearances in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
After making his debut in 1968, this popular beagle has appeared a total of 39 times in the parade. During this time, Snoopy has had over seven balloons designed in his image. Want a bit of Charlie Brown Thanksgiving trivia? In 2016, Brown replaced Snoopy temporarily—much to the delight of the character’s own fans.
Jingle Bells Was Originally a Thanksgiving song
Originally titled “One Horse Open Sleigh,” the song became so popular around December 25th that the composer changed its title to Jingle Bells instead.
Why is Black Friday Named as Such?
What is Black Friday and how did it earn the ominous name? The day after Thanksgiving is highly anticipated by many because of all the sales, but its history is pretty grim. Black Friday is named after the day investors Jim Fisk and Jay Gould drove up the price of gold so much that it caused a stock market crash.
Thanksgiving Has Been Celebrated in Canada for Over 140 Years
The first Thanksgiving for them happened on November 6, 1879. The American Thanksgiving might overshadow it, but Canadians do enjoy their holiday feast as well. What’s your favorite Canadian Thanksgiving trivia?
Thanksgiving Food Trivia
How Many Turkeys are Eaten on Thanksgiving?
The number is staggering. According to statistics, about 46 million turkeys are eaten each year during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Your Turkey Meal Isn’t Making You Tired
The real reason is because you overate. Most people often feel sleepy or tired after partaking in Thanksgiving feasts. The blame used to go to the amino acid tryptophan found in turkeys, but as it turns out your body is simply going into shutdown mode after a huge meal. We hope this Thanksgiving food trivia keeps you from overindulging this year!
Most Americans Dislike Classic Thanksgiving Dishes, But Eat Them Anyway
From canned cranberry sauces to pumpkin pie, a 2019 survey showed that Americans will honor traditions even if the menu isn’t to their taste. Weird Thanksgiving trivia, right?
A Lot of People Enjoy Thanksgiving Leftovers More Than the Actual Meal
Who wouldn’t? There’s plenty of things you can do with the leftovers, after all. You can easily look up Thanksgiving recipes online to make sure you make the most of all that stuffing in your fridge!
The Wednesday Before Thanksgiving is Known as Drinksgiving
What’s a celebration without a toast? Known to some as “Black Wednesday” the night before Thanksgiving is one of the “booziest” days of the year. In fact, Uber has even taken to offering free rides to make sure revelers get home safely.
Turkey Facts Trivia:
The First Official Turkey Pardon Was Done by George H.W. Bush
It was back in 1989 when the then-president gave pardon to the holiday’s official bird. This basically means that the president is sparing the life of the gifted Thanksgiving turkey presented to him by private citizens. Different presidents have had varying reasons for the pardon, but George H.W. Bush gets credit for establishing the tradition.
The act itself is meant to represent good will and cheer. A heartwarming piece of Thanksgiving trivia, right?
Yes, the Turkey is Named After the Country
According to historical facts, guinea fowl were exported from East Africa via Turkey to Europe. During the travel, Europeans began referring to them as turkey-cocks or turkey-hens, because of the trade route.
When they first arrived in North America, these traders found similar looking birds and in a case of mistaken identity, named them “turkeys.”
Which U.S. State Raises the Most Turkeys?
This title goes to Minnesota. They are the top Turkey-producers and can supply 49 million every year.
It is only normal to ask why we celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, it is a deeply-ingrained tradition that is rooted in family. Yes, there is a dark history associated with it, but if we honor this past then there may still a cause for celebration.
What is Thanksgiving? It is a time for family and a reminder to be grateful for every blessing you have received throughout the year. We hope our Thanksgiving trivia helped enlighten you on the subject and helped make your holidays a more thoughtful one.