Thanksgiving is one of the most important annual feasts for Americans, and most of us think that we know all there is to know about this day. However, here are some interesting facts about the festive holiday that might just surprise you. Let’s take a look.

1. The date for the first Thanksgiving is controversial

There is debate as to when the first Thanksgiving feast was officially celebrated. Some sources say it was initially held in Texas in 1541 when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his expedition held a Thanksgiving celebration in Palo Duro Canyon.

While others claim that the feast happened for the first time in 1621 with three whole days of celebrations. 

2. Turkey was not served at the first Thanksgiving feast

Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Martha_chapa95/Flickr/ CC BY 2.0)

Historians also have no record of turkey being served at the first Thanksgiving feast. It was otherwise believed that another “fowling” including “ducks, geese and swans” rather than turkey were served when the Pilgrims celebrated a good harvest in the New World.

3. Benjamin Franklin voted for the turkey to be the national bird

(Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)

Ben Franklin opined that the turkey was much more respectable than the eagle, as indicated in the letter to his daughter, which read, “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country… for the truth, the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.” 

Although his wish was not finally granted, it later became the inspiration for a song performed in 1776 about the drafting of Independence Day.

4. President Thomas Jefferson once canceled the Thanksgiving Day celebration

George Washington was the first president to declare Thanksgiving a holiday. His successors reaffirmed the declaration every year. But when it came to Thomas Jefferson’s term, he considered the holiday was “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived” and canceled its celebration. His opinion results from his belief that church and state should be separated and the day of “prayer” violated the First Amendment.

5. Sarah Josepha Hale – “Mother of Thanksgiving”

(Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)

The 19th-century writer and editor was nicknamed “Mother of Thanksgiving” as she was the one who penned a letter to President Abraham Lincoln and also the Secretary of State to call on them to announce Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Since then the timing of the annual celebrations has been fixed over the years. 

6. “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving Day song.

Jingle Bells, when composed in 1857 and was named “One horse open sleigh”. And its composer initially intended to make it a Thanksgiving Day song. But its popularity at the time turned it into a Christmas anthem with its title changed into Jingle Bells in 1859.

7. Thanksgiving date once changed

In 1939, President FDR once moved Thanksgiving day to the third Thursday of  November instead of the fourth one. It was during the Great Recession and he hoped that it would add seven days more to Black Friday, giving a boost to the economy. Nevertheless, it sparked a lot of confusion resulting in most states holding the holiday on its original date, except Colorado, Texas, and Mississippi, which each held celebrations on both weekends. 

Two years later, Congress finally set the fourth Thursday of November as the official holiday.

8. When was the first time that turkey was offered a presidential pardon?

President Donald J. Trump pardons Peas and Carrots Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in the Rose Garden of the White House. First Lady Melania Trump attends. (Official White House Photo by Amy Rossetti)

It is controversial. It is believed it first began with President Harry Truman in 1947, although, the Truman Library & Museum disputed that notion.

Some thought that the tradition was initiated by President Abraham Lincoln, as his son Tad begged him to spare his pet turkey’s life.

But it was later confirmed that George H. W. Bush was the first president to officially grant a turkey a presidential pardon, according to the White House records.

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