General | Thanksgiving Tidbits

We tend to think of Thanksgiving as a uniquely American holiday.

It is. And it isn’t.

The first Thanksgiving feast was held by Coronado and his troops in 1541 in the Texas panhandle, where they were searching for gold in the New World.

Other celebratory feasts were held by French Huguenot colonists in the Jacksonville, Florida area in 1564; by English Colonists and Abnaki Indians in the Kennebec River, Maine area in 1607; and by English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia in 1610 when a food-laden ship arrived and relieved a brutal famine.

The next recorded Thanksgiving feast, the one most of us think of as the first Thanksgiving, involved English settlers and the Wampanoag Indians. It took place in or near the Plymouth Colony in October 1621. For 200 years, most of the event details were lost until a letter from Edward Winslow, a Plymouth Colony leader, surfaced in the mid-1800s.

In 1789, George Washington declared November 26 to be a day of national thanksgiving and prayer. The US holiday we know and love today was made official by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, but it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who standardized the fourth Thursday of November as the official day for celebration.

For the record, turkey and cranberries are uniquely North American foods, along with the distinctive American pumpkin used for jack-o-lanterns.

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October. The holiday was established in 1879 and modeled after the US celebration.

Happy Thanksgiving, America.

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Related
Before & After | Talking Turkey
National Geographic: Thanksgiving facts
Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

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