The History of Thanksgiving

How much do you really know about Thanksgiving history? A few things we think we know may not be true. Gary Crawford has this report. Gary Crawford has more:

“Yes, it’s that time again, as Winnie the Pooh says…”it’s time for Thanksgiving.” You see Thanksgiving is about tradition and custom, defined and refined over many long years…and it’s also about the Dallas football games…

USDA ‘s Anne Effland, Historical Expert with the Department of Agriculture says at the so-called first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Indians there were contests and races and other kinds of things, so in addition to food there was also a tradition of athletic events, I guess you could say if you want to draw this together with the football tradition.

And I used to think that I knew everything about Thanksgiving until I met Anne Effland, now most of know that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620.  And by 1621 they had a harvest to celebrate, thanks to the nearby Indians, the Wampanoag’s.  Now, I knew that, but I did not know, and had often wondered how they communicated.  Well, Anne says that yes, you had the Indian tribe there, but a couple of them had been to England and knew English, and befriended them.  A colossal coincidence that probably helped keep the Pilgrims from being wiped out that first winter.

So, you’ve got the Native Americans lending a vital helping hand to the Pilgrims…they were taught to plant squash, and corn and pumpkins.  So, that first celebration whenever they had been able to grow enough, tjey knew they would have enough for the winter, they invited the nearby Indians, who had been so important to their planting, to join in the celebration of their harvest.

However, there is no evidence they had turkey.  One Pilgrim that did keep a journal that said they went out and shot wild fowl, so there’s no direct evidence they had turkey, but they might have.

Another misconception is that Thanksgiving has been celebrated yearly.  Ann says no, not at all, it was an on and off thing, mostly off, done at various times during the year.

So, finally some 200 years after that first celebration, there had been a movement led by a woman Sarah Joseph Hale, who was editor of a popular ladies magazine who was leading a movement for a national holiday.  And finally, Mrs. Hale’s 40-year campaign bore fruit and Abraham Lincoln, in 1863 declared the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, a celebration of home, hearth and food, and of course later we added football.  And we’re thankful for it all.”'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.