6 Facts About Thanksgiving

1. The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621.

This is the day we all envision when we think of the first Thanksgiving: Plymouth colonists gathering to share a peaceful, autumn feast with Wampanoag members. Unfortunately, settling colonial America wasn’t as magical as it may appear in children’s books. Due to exposure, illness, and general inexperience surviving in the New World, only half of the original settlers lived through the winter of 1620-1621. The survivors were saved from starvation by a Native American tribesman named Squanto who taught the Englishmen how to grow corn, catch fish, and avoid dangerous plants. The first Thanksgiving later that fall commemorated the relationship between the English settlers and their Wampanoag allies , and the second Thanksgiving in 1623 celebrated the end of a long drought.

2. George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.

Instead of promoting the ideals of peace and family that we usually associate with Thanksgiving today, he called on colonists to be thankful for the end of the American Revolution and the new independence of the United States. During the war, the Continental Congress had designated a day or two of Thanksgiving a year, and John Adams and James Madison followed in Washington’s tradition and set aside days of thanks during their presidencies.

3. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863.

He decided Thanksgiving would be the final Thursday in November, a day set aside to reflect on the Civil War and “heal the wounds of the nation.”

4. The pardoning of the turkey started in the mid-20th century.

Quite a few U.S. governors also spare a turkey from slaughter near the holidays, also.

5. 79 percent of Americans say eating the leftover portions of a Thanksgiving meal is actually more important than eating the meal, itself.

6. According to a 2012 CNN poll, Thanksgiving is America’s second-favorite holiday.

Behind Christmas, of course.

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