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Most people agree that the first recorded Thanksgiving occurred on 1621. It is also believed that the first meal included many things but turkey and potatoes were not one of them.* Instead the meats may have been duck, geese, or venison. Some vegetables consisted of onions, beans, spinach, and carrots.*
The Holiday of Thanksgiving was not recognized nationally until 1863. It took Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor, many years to get Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday, but her efforts paid off with president Lincoln.* On October 3rd 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving.* A national holiday of Thanksgiving was born in the United States.
However in 1939 president Roosevelt changed the date of thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday of November to the third Thursday of November.* Confusion set in and after two years president Roosevelt changed the date of thanksgiving back to the fourth Thursday of November in 1941.
A big Thanksgiving Day tradition is the Macy’s day parade. The parade started in 1924. The first big balloon, Felix the cat, appeared in the parade in 1927.* The parades first broadcast was in 1937. Soon after the parade took root war ensued and it was temporarily suspended from 1942 through 1944.* However the parade rebounded and has been an American tradition ever since.
Another staple of Thanksgiving is football. College Thanksgiving games can be traced back to 1876 when Yale and Princeton played each other.* The National Football League has its own tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving too. Since the NFL’s beginning, in 1920, games have been played on thanksgiving.* From 1920 until current, games are played on Thanksgiving keeping the NFL tradition alive.
Again this article is not meant to comprehensively cover the entire history of Thanksgiving. Instead EDL provides this information for fun discussion around the dinner table.
*Teaching with primary sources (2015). Library of Congress. Teacher's guide primary source set. 1-7.
*Embassy of the United States of America (2013). United States Department of State Bureau of International Information programs. Thanksgiving: A cornucopia of culinary traditions. 1-2