Thanksgiving is an American holiday set aside to be grateful for all that we have. There are a lot of customs and traditions associated with this holiday. But there are just as many myths. Let’s take a look at some of the myths of Thanksgiving and then what really happened.
Myth 1: The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621.
Reality: There was, indeed, a three-day harvest celebration in the fall of 1621, but it was not a holiday and it was not repeated for more than 150 years. In 1676 another feast of thanksgiving was held in June. It too was a one-year affair. Then, in 1789, George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving. It was a controversial proposition and it also was a one-time event. It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed Thanksgiving Day that the tradition stuck. Every president after Lincoln proclaimed the holiday until, in 1941, Congress made it a national holiday.
Myth 2: Our modern Thanksgiving meal staples of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie is traced back to the original feast of the Pilgrims and Indians.
Reality: The Pilgrims had neither flour nor sugar. It had all been used up long before the fall of 1621. So they had no pies or cakes. They didn’t even have bread except for some fried flatbread made from cornmeal. It is questionable as to whether they had turkey. They did eat wild fowl, but it could have been ducks, geese, or pheasant. They certainly ate venison, lobster, and other seafood. They had cranberries, but without sugar, there was no way to make a sauce. They ate watercress, corn, pumpkins, and turnips. But they ate no potatoes, since many Europeans still considered them to be poisonous.
Myth 3: Thanksgiving is a religious holiday in which we give thanks to God for our blessings.
Reality: Many people do give thanks to God for their blessings. But the day was and always has been secular in nature. People can give thanks to each other, to nature, and to simple good fortune without the need to bring in a deity.
Myth 4: Turkey makes you sleepy because it contains a lot of tryptophan.
Reality: Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can induce relaxation. But turkey contains no more than most meats and certainly not enough to induce sleep. More likely, overeating carbohydrates is the culprit.
Myth 5: The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is the busiest shopping season of the year.
Reality: Actually, although this might have once been the case, in more recent years the last Saturday before Christmas is much busier for shoppers who are looking for those last-minute Christmas bargains.