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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fun facts about Thanksgiving

The beginnings of the tradition:

A three-day feast with about 50 colonists and 90 Native Americans, the first Thanksgiving in 1621 didn't include mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie or cranberries. Deer, rabbit and squash graced the table, and historians believe that lobster, seal and swan may have been served as well. While fowl was on the menu, the bird of choice was probably not turkey.

If you want to prepare for Thanksgiving like a real Pilgrim this year, here's what you should do: Cancel the plane reservations. Stop jotting down recipes. Leave the libations alone. For the Pilgrims and Puritans, "thanksgiving" days were spontaneous and sober affairs. When friends arrived from overseas, European Protestants defeated Catholics in battle, or a bumper crop was reaped, the Pilgrims dedicated a day to thanking divine Providence. They would have considered it presumptuous to schedule a thanksgiving day in advance, said Francis Bremer, an emeritus professor of history at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. "It assumes that God is going to be good to you each particular year." The Pilgrims' days of thanksgiving were usually spent in church, singing psalms, listening to sermons and praying. Work and playful pastimes were forbidden. When God provided, the Pilgrims were serious about gratitude.

Presidents always  get involved:

American leaders called for days of thanks rather regularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. A celebration on a specific day every year didn't occur until President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. For nearly 40 years prior to the declaration, eminent writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," among other titles—led a campaign to make the holiday official.

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of the month in an effort to spur shopping during The Great Depression. Met with vast public opposition, Roosevelt was forced to change the holiday back to the last Thursday in November just two years later.

The National Turkey Federation has given a turkey to the White House every Thanksgiving since 1947. Until 1989—when George H. Bush began the tradition ofpardoning the White House turkey—nearly every president chose to eat the bird. Spared turkeys spend the rest of their days in the happiest place on earth: Disneyland.

There must be turkey:

While "gobble" is the call most people associate with turkeys, the birds have at least 28 different known vocalizations. Other calls, including "yelps," "clucks," "putts," "cackles," "purrs," "hoots" and "hisses," are used to indicate danger, advertise the caller's sex, establish control and keep the flock together.

The average Thanksgiving turkey weighs 15 pounds and is comprised of 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. The National Turkey Federationestimated that in 2007, 46 million turkeys—one-fifth of the annual total of 235 million—were eaten at Thanksgiving.

Despite popular belief, the tryptophan in turkey is probably not responsible for post-meal drowsiness. Thanksgiving sleepiness is more likely caused by drinking excess alcohol and eating a large, high-carbohydrate meal that the body must work hard to digest. While eating turkey on a completely empty stomach without any other food might make you a tad tired, when served as part of a hefty feast, the tryptophan's effect is negligible.

Though Thomas Jefferson selected the bald eagle as our national bird, Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey was a better candidate. A "bird of courage," a turkey, Franklin believed, "would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard." In comparison, he said the eagle had "bad moral character" and played a lesser role in early American life.

Making it more commercial:

Created by Charles Schulz in 1973 and originally airing on CBS, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving won an Emmy in 1974. Now shown on ABC every Thanksgiving night, the show is usually paired with another half-hour special. Since 2008, the accompaniment has been "The Mayflower Voyagers," an episode from the This Is America, Charlie Brown miniseries.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 drew a quarter of a million people and featured costumed Macy's employees, professional bands, and animals from Central Park Zoo. Today, over 3 million people attend the parade, and another 44 million tune in on the tube.
Giant helium balloons were added to Macy's parade in 1927. While Macy's planned to release them into the sky following the parade, the balloons popped on their ascent. The following year, the release was successful, and the balloons floated above the region for several days. Any kid lucky enough to find one of the deflated balloons thereafter received a free gift from the department store.

Can it be Thanksgiving without football?

The tradition of holding a "Thanksgiving Classic" started in 1934, when the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions in front of 26,000 fans. Detroit's all-time record on the holiday is 33 wins, 36 losses and two ties, and the only time the Lions didn't play a game on Thanksgiving Day was when the NFL was on moratorium during World War II.

Can it be Thanksgiving if it is in Finland?

At this multi-national ISAF base you couldn’t help noticing that most of the tables in the Tent City cafeteria were filled with non-American soldiers – from Albanians to New Zealanders – all enjoying the culinary fare and not particularly missing their families because the day didn’t trigger those kinds of memories. "It’s not a holiday in Norway," said one soldier wolfing down a turkey leg, "but this is a chance to enjoy a good meal!’’

"In Finland we have Thanksgiving," said the only Finn on the base, a police trainer.
"Come on!" I yelled in disbelief.
"Yes, it’s about 5 years old. We took it from the Americans. I love the turkey and cranberry sauce!"

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