I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  : ) Time with loved ones is always a great break from the hustle and bustle of life.  The tradition of watching the football game while going into a turkey and stuffing filled food coma is probably the most American thing we could do.

Did you know that many of the traditions we partake in on Thanksgiving are ones that developed decades or even centuries after the first Thanksgiving?  Also, Thanksgiving traditions slightly change depending on the region and even each individual family could have their own unique traditions.

Let’s explore the traditions around this amazing, food-filled holiday!

History

Most people know that the first Thanksgiving happened in the fall of 1621. The pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in the new world with the help of their Native American friends.  Did you know that it lasted three days instead of one? Food, entertainment, games, and art were all part of the celebration. (OMG… it would be awesome to have 3 days of food and parties!)

Believe it or not, many of the foods we traditionally have on the table today were not available or around at the time of the first Thanksgiving.  While our traditional turkey was a part of the meal, historians have found documentation that shows the natives hunted 5 deer and presented them to the governor, which likely became the centerpiece.

Along with the venison, waterfowl such as duck, geese, and pigeon would’ve also been served. Cranberries were most likely served as well, although not in the gelatinous state we serve it today.  Traditionally they were eaten fresh, roasted and crushed, or possibly boiled.  Corn was a large part of the feast and corn-based loaves of bread would’ve most likely been used over wheat-based bread. Sorry potato lovers! Potatoes were not brought over to the new world yet so they were not a part of the original Thanksgiving meal.

It wasn’t celebrated again until Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863 as a way to promote unity during the Civil War.

Modern Traditions

Thanksgiving traditions have certainly evolved over time since Lincoln named it a national holiday.  I mean it’s crazy to see the difference between the venison and corn-based meal and the delicious turkey and potato heaven we love today.

Did you know that different regions of the USA have slightly different variations on the Thanksgiving traditions?  For example, more northern residents in the New England states use maple syrup to baste their turkey.  Meanwhile, in sunny Hawaii, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey is cooked in a tribal Hawaiian Imu. (a type of underground oven that makes the meat so tender it literally falls right off the bones!)

There are many other amazing Thanksgiving traditions from all around the US.  Many of them are nationally known like the Presidential Pardon where one lucky turkey gets to live the rest of their life on a cushy petting zoo.  Others are more localized.  For instance, Texas has “Giving Tuesday” when Texans generously give to multiple charities to help others less fortunate, and Alaska has the Great Alaska Shootout (a huge basketball tournament in Anchorage!).

What are some of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions? Comment below!