Thanksgiving 2016 is November 24, giving Americans a chance to take a pause and share what they are thankful for. For many, it includes going through the same traditions year after year. You might enjoy getting up early to watch the parades on television, going out to see parades in person or heading out to a football game. For each tradition, there’s a story for how it began.
Here’s a look at some fun trivia for Thanksgiving 2016!
1. It’s Not Clear Exactly What Kind of Bird Was Eaten at the First Thanksgiving
This might be a surprise to some, but turkey might not have been eaten by the Pilgrims and Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. according to History.com, Plymouth’s first colonial governor, William Bradford, wrote in his journal that he sent four men on a “fowling” mission for the meal and the three-day Thanksgiving. While it’s certainly possible that the men did bring back turkey, they could have also brought back geese, ducks and swans.
Much of what we know about that first Thanksgiving also comes from Mourt’s Relation: A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimouth in New England, which was written by Edward Winslow and Bradford. This book also did not specifically describe the fowl brought to the dinner.
2. Thanksgiving Wasn’t Celebrated Nationwide Until Abraham Lincoln Made it a Federal Holiday in 1863
Although President George Washington declared the first Thanksgiving holiday on November 26, 1789, it wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln declared it a federal holiday in 1863 that it was given official status. The declaration came during the height of the civil war.
Abraham Lincoln Online notes that Lincoln was inspired to do so after magazine editor Sarah Josephna Hale sent a letter to him in September 1863, asking that Thanksgiving be made a fixed national holiday.
Just days after receiving Hale’s letter, Lincoln issued his proclamation. In it, he made his case for a day in which all Americans worldwide can pause for a day of thanks.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People,” Lincoln wrote. “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
3. In 1939 & 1940, There Were 2 Thanksgivings After FDR Changed the Date
With Americans still recovering from the Great Depression, retailers were concerned that November had five Thursdays in 1939 and that might shorten the Christmas shopping season. As Archives.gov notes, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the second to last Thursday of the month Thanksgiving. While 32 states followed FDR’s decision, 16 refused to do so. Therefore, there were two different Thanksgiving Days in the U.S. that year.
This happened again in 1940, but Congress decided to put an end to it in 1941. In October 1941, the House passed a joint resolution to make the last Thursday in November the legal Thanksgiving Day.
However, the Senate decided to throw a wrench in their version of the resolution by making Thanksgiving always be the fourth Thursday. The House agreed to amend their resolution.
As NPR reported in 2012, FDR was actually asked by retailers to move up Thanksgiving in 1933 because of a five-Thursday November that year. He didn’t give in then, but he changed his mind in 1939.
4. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Isn’t the Oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade
For many, the morning of Thanksgiving Day is spent watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has aired on NBC from New York City every year since 1952. The parade began in 1924, the same year America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit began. However, they are not the oldest Thanksgiving Day Parades. That title goes to Philadelphia’s 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The Philadelphia parade began in 1920, without the Dunkin’ Donuts sponsorship, of course. It was originally sponsored by Gimbels Department Store, but the store went out of business in 1986.
Boscov’s Department Stores sponsored it until 2008, when it filed for bankruptcy. IKEA sponsored it until 2010. In 2011, Dunkin’ Donuts stepped up and has sponsored it ever since.
5. Over 40 Stores Will Stay Closed on Thanksgiving so You & Employees Can Enjoy the Day Together
In the past few years, stores have begun opening on Thanksgiving Day afternoon, but that decision has been widely criticized because it robs employees of the opportunity to spend time with their families. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine, stores are closed anyway by law on Thanksgiving Day.
According to Best Black Friday, GameStop, Home Depot, Lowes, Costco, BJ’s, Nordstrom, Jo-Ann and Patagonia all announced in September that they won’t be open on Thanksgiving. Since then, the list of stores staying closed has grown to over 40.
Some of the stores that will stay closed ate Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, IKEA, HomeGoods, Marshalls, Office Depo, Office Max, Publix, T.J. Maxx and Sam’s Club. You can click here for the full list.