1. Thanksgiving wasn’t fixed on the fourth Thursday of November until 1941.
In an 1863 presidential proclamation, Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. Presidents continued to issue proclamations setting the celebration on that day each year.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the day to the fourth Thursday to lengthen the holiday shopping season. But many states still observed Lincoln’s designated day, so Congress finally passed a law making the fourth Thursday an official national holiday.
2. Snoopy is the character balloon appearing most often in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, making his 30th appearance this year, according to a Macy’s press release.
3. Before departing for the New World, the pilgrims fled first to Leiden, Netherlands, where they lived for 10 years. Click here to learn more about the Pilgrims in Leiden.
4. Today, Plymouth Rock is approximately one-third its estimated original size.
The rock (on which the Pilgrims may or may not have actually landed) hasn’t had the easiest life. It split in two the first time people tried to move it (the halves have been reunited), and pieces have been hacked off for souvenirs and to make it fit in its various shelters. Read more about Plymouth Rock here.
5. The other ship that initially set off with the Mayflower was called the Speedwell. Both ships turned back after the Speedwell began leaking, then the Mayflower set off again, alone.
6. The Pilgrims probably feasted on wild turkey. Historians can eliminate the other items (cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes and chicken) because the ingredients or recipes wouldn’t have been available to the Pilgrims.
So what else did they eat? Venison and wild fowl were certainly on the menu, according to Edward Winslow’s account of the first Thanksgiving feast. They likely ate pumpkin (but not pie). Read more on the first Thanksgiving feast at the History Channel.