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Did you know?

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Since Thanksgiving break is soon upon us, I decided to do a little research into the history and origin of this famous holiday. I was interested to see what the pilgrims ate at their first feast, where it was held and other facts of this nature.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in November. It was originally held for three days in 1621 in Plymouth, Mass. It is known as Harvest Festival in the United Kingdom and is celebrated at the end of the Harvest Festival but is not as well celebrated as Christmas or Easter.

It did not become an actual holiday until 1863. Abraham Lincoln was the president who decided that Thanksgiving should fall on the last Thursday of the month. But Dwight D. Eisenhower moved the holiday to the next to last Thursday of the month in an effort to create a longer shopping season for Christmas.

In terms of food, the pilgrims were not consuming the modern dishes we do today such as turkey, corn and beans. They did eat venison and wild fowl. They also did not use forks to eat their food – rather they used spoons, knives and fingers.

Regarding the use of salt and pepper: Salt would be available on the table but pepper would be used solely in cooking. Also, what an individual would eat depended on his or her social standing. The most important people received the best food. Individuals never asked for food to be passed – they simply ate what was in front of them.

Unfortunately, the pilgrims did not consume any pie or sweets after dinner because the small supply of sugar they brought over on the Mayflower had diminished by the time Thanksgiving had rolled around. They also did not have an oven to bake it in if they did have the necessary ingredients.

In regards to modern Thanksgiving in 2005, the six states that produce the most amounts of turkeys were Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri and California. Approximately 90 percent of Americans consume turkey on Thanksgiving and only 50 percent eat it on Christmas. Ham and pasta are popular alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Compared to the early Thanksgiving, adults are generally also served first while children eat second and are often placed at another table in a separate room. One would think that the United States consumes the most turkey per capita a year, but it is actually Israel.

After comparing the similarities and differences between the historic and modern Thanksgivings it was interesting to see how it evolved and became one of the most popular holidays of the year. Students will be traveling to all different parts of the U.S. whether by air, car or bus. But the best way to start off the holiday season will be a win on Saturday in the infamous Coliseum. After that, it’s only 30 days till Christmas.