When we think of Thanksgiving, we may think of a table full of food, spirited family discussions, and the unique family traditions we share with those closest to us. Most of us know from elementary school that the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621, when the Pilgrims shared a three-day feast with the Native Americans. But there’s more to Thanksgiving history than just that first shared harvest.
A Little Thanksgiving History
- The first Thanksgiving menu included turkey, but also featured wild duck, deer, flint corn, fish, shellfish, and eels. The Native Americans even had cranberries.
- George Washington officially proclaimed the observation of Thanksgiving in 1789. It was celebrated nationally from time to time, mostly in New England, but wasn’t made a national observance until the Presidential term of Abraham Lincoln.
- Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday after being convinced by Sarah Josepha Hale, who campaigned for the holiday for 36 years! Prior to Lincoln’s decree, Thanksgiving was only celebrated in New England. (Incidentally, Sarah Josepha Hale also penned the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)
- Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as our national day of thanksgiving. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved the day up by a week to encourage people to do their Christmas shopping earlier. It seems the Christmas holiday has started earlier every year since!
- In 1784, Benjamin Franklin suggested to his daughter that the wild turkey should be the national bird of the United States, rather than the bald eagle.
- Thanksgiving was declared a federal legal holiday by Congress in 1941.
- Every year, turkey farms raise over 250 million turkeys, weighing over seven billion pounds. Two-thirds of these turkeys are produced in Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana, and are shipped across the country. We also produce over 800 million pounds of cranberries.
Thanksgiving Travel Facts
It’s no secret many people travel during the Thanksgiving holiday. Here are a few fun numbers on holiday travel:
- Over half will travel at least a hundred miles, while the average person (or family) will travel over two hundred miles.
- While the airports will be busy this holiday, over eighty-nine percent of America’s 40+ million travelers will be traveling on the road. By comparison, the number of airplane seats booked on Thanksgiving Day is approximately 1.7 million.
- Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Los Angeles holds the top spot for the worst traffic on Thanksgiving Day. It may surprise you to learn that cities such as Philadelphia and Miami actually see their traffic improve.
- On the weekend after Thanksgiving, traffic improves by over sixty percent. For a less stressful drive, stay an extra day or two with the relatives.
How to Show Gratitude This Thanksgiving
Many of us associate Thanksgiving with rich food, watching a game on television, and spending time with family and friends. But there can be more to Thanksgiving than just turkey and football. Here are a few ways you can show gratitude for what you have this holiday:
- Share what you have. Buy a meal for a family in need, volunteer at a local food bank, or donate to a food drive program.
- Adopt a Marine or a military family. Many soldiers find themselves facing Thanksgiving alone, and many military families find themselves in need this holiday season. Programs like Soldiers’ Angels and Any Marine offer ways to help repay those who have volunteered to serve our country.
- Missing someone? Write a letter or email to those friends or family members who can’t be with you this Thanksgiving. Make it more than just a few words on their Facebook wall — send them something from the heart that will make their holiday special.
- When you’re at the coffee shop, buy a coffee for the next person in line.
- Volunteer your time at the local seniors’ center, for those who have no family and often spend the holiday alone.
Thanksgiving is a time for celebration and gratitude. Slow down, enjoy yourself, and take the time to appreciate those around you. Metropolitan Shuttle wishes you a fun, safe, and happy Thanksgiving!