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Fun Facts About Thanksgiving History

What would Thanksgiving be without a few fun facts about Thanksgiving history? It’s certainly a great way to add to your store of knowledge, and impress the family and guests with something more than your traditional holiday stuffing recipe! Speaking of stuffing, did you know that on Thanksgiving Day in the United States, no fewer than 91 percent of American citizens partake of a turkey feast? That’s probably as high a number in agreement on one subject as one will every find on anything in this country!

Fun Facts About Thanksgiving History

History of the Day

The Continental Congress thought the tradition of Thanksgiving should be one the former colonists, who now formed the very new United States, should celebrate. This marked one of the first formal recognitions that Thanksgiving was a holiday worthy of government notice.

George Washington publicly proclaimed the importance of Thanksgiving Day not once, but twice: first in 1789, and again in 1795. Washington, a devout man, believed it was important Americans give thanks to their Creator for the victory they had recently won against the British in freeing the colonies to become a new country.

Fun Facts About Thanksgiving History

Interestingly, though, Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and ultimately the third elected President of the United States thought the whole idea of a Thanksgiving Day was silly!

“It’s the most ridiculous thing” he had ever heard, Jefferson supposedly said in another fun fact about Thanksgiving history.

While Jefferson may be one of the most brilliant American thinkers, most Americans would agree his snubbing of Thanksgiving Day probably wasn’t his best idea! George Washington, indeed in this instance, was the man Americans now would admire most.

Turkey Day

Turkeys are a tasty part of the holiday table on Thanksgiving. Americans might look at that bird differently, if what Benjamin Franklin wanted had become national policy. He favored making the turkey the national bird instead of the Bald Eagle.

Back in the days of the country’s founding, many decisions were enacted to draw the country together. The Founding Fathers and politicians of the time wanted to encourage patriotism and loyalty for a new nation. One was the standardization of an American flag (as you’ll remember, the thirteen stars in a circle on a blue field in a flag of red and white stripes is the traditional Betsy Ross flag.)

Along with the flag, coinage and money, the Founders believed that a national bird would be a good way to inspire patriotic fervor among the new Americans. As everyone knows now, the majestic bald eagle is a symbol of American spirit. Of course, if Ben Franklin had had his way, the symbol of the United States would have been a turkey!

“It’s a noble bird,” Franklin reportedly said. “A source of sustenance” for the Pilgrims in Massachusetts who landed in Plymouth, and that, he added, was why the turkey would be a great national bird for the country. These are just more fun facts about Thanksgiving history.

Like Jefferson’s dislike of Thanksgiving celebrations, Franklin’s support of a national turkey fortunately did not become the law of the land.

Abe Lincoln and Thanksgiving

Although George Washington tried twice to have Thanksgiving celebrated as an official holiday (and the Continental Congress made its own proclamation before that), it wasn’t until 1864 that Thanksgiving actually earned its place as an official holiday in the country.

That official designation came about from President Abraham Lincoln, to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Lincoln was deep in the throes of the Civil War, and after the tide of the war had turned toward the Union side, Lincoln felt a deep gratitude to Providence for His favor.

In that Thanksgiving address, Lincoln humbly thanked God for “the blessings of Peace, Union and Harmony throughout the land, which it has pleased him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations."