Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Real Story of Thanksgiving

Yesterday night the History Channel aired a one hour special titled The Real Story of Thanksgiving, which I thought was great.  It lovingly debunked a series of myths, assumptions, and urban legends that have grown up around the holiday, while managing never to be mocking or dismissive.  You can also watch it on You Tube HERE.

In case you don't want to spend an hour on that, here are a few highlights.
  • The day before Thanksgiving is not, it turns out, the busiest travel day of the year.  ("It's not even close.  Actually, it's the 25th busiest travel day.")  In reality, the busiest travel day of the year every year turns out to be some friday in June or July.
  • The supposed 'first Thanksgiving' among Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621 was actually forgotten for over 200 years and was not re-discovered until the 19th Century, after Thanksgiving had already become an unofficial regional holiday in New England.  
  • Abraham Lincoln was the first US President to officially recognize Thanksgiving, which he did during the Civil War.  For obvious reasons, the day was largely ignored in the South.
  • In 1939, FDR changed the date on which Thanksgiving was celebrated, by moving it back a week (to make more time for Christmas shopping).  But 'The People' revolted, calling it 'Franksgiving Day,' apparently. This problem wasn't rectified until 1941, when the US Congress finally made Thanksgiving an official US federal holiday, to be held on the last Thursday of every November. (Then less than two weeks after that first official Thanksgiving holiday, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.)

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