The leaves are turning, Halloween has been and gone, and every store you visit is piled high with pumpkins. This can only mean one thing… it’s almost Thanksgiving! Those familiar family get-togethers, the buzz on the streets and, of course, the trials and tribulations of getting that roast turkey just right. But despite the age-old traditions, there are some facts about Thanksgiving that you’ve probably never heard of. Here are a few of our favourites.
A three-day feast
These days, Americans get one day’s holiday on Thanksgiving, but at the very first Thanksgiving in 1621, festivities lasted a little longer. When the local Wampanoag tribe turned up to the Plymouth Plantation for the colony’s big harvest feast, it was declared that celebrations would be prolonged for another couple of days. With the spread including everything from swan to lobster, it’s hardly surprising!
The Thanksgiving turkey – what’s in a name?
It’s thought that the all-important centrepiece to Thanksgiving dinner got its name from the Europeans. The continent’s Guinea Fowl were brought over by Turkish merchants, and gradually became known as ‘Turkeys’. The name crossed the Atlantic when the first Spaniards arrived in the New World and found similar birds waddling around.
What do Thanksgiving and nursery rhymes have in common?
The answer is one magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale. She penned Mary Had a Little Lamb, but Americans also have her to thank for their Thanksgiving day off. At the height of the Civil War, Sarah urged Abraham Lincoln to unite the country by declaring the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday. In autumn 1863, the president finally agreed.
Macy’s Parade, part I
Nowadays, you can’t have Thanksgiving without Macy’s Parade, and you can’t have the parade without its huge balloons. However, there were no balloons at the procession debut in 1924. Instead, in true Macy’s extravagance, elephants and camels from Central Park Zoo joined the march. In 1927, Tony Starg of Good Housekeeping designed the parade’s first balloons, and they’ve been a fixture ever since.
Macy’s Parade, part II
To begin with, there was no deflation routine for Tony’s balloons. At the end of the parade, they were merely cut loose to float to the sky. Those lucky enough to discover one of the inflatable characters once it had drifted back down to earth, could return it to Macy’s for a prize.
A (very) brief history of the TV dinner
Even the beloved TV dinner has its origins in Thanksgiving. In 1953, food manufacturer Swanson ended up with 260 tons of excess turkey to shift over the festivities. Rather than sell the birds whole, they decided to fill thousands of aluminium trays with frozen slices, along with all the traditional trimmings. At 98 cents each, they were a huge hit and Swanson has never looked back!
Got a culinary crisis?
The Butterball Turkey Talk Line is the number you want. 35 years ago, the cooking experts on the other side of the phone were answering 11,000 calls over Thanksgiving season; today, that number is closer to 100,000. With a 24-hour text helpline introduced in 2016, they’re the fairy godmother for any turkey-related disasters in the lead up to the big feast.
Once the madness of Thanksgiving is over, treat yourself to a well-deserved getaway with one of these amazing Trafalgar trips.