11 Facts You Didn't Know About Thanksgiving

by Marisa Ross

There are certain Thanksgiving facts that I know to be true — like for instance, how every November, I look forward to filling myself with Aunt Betty's 25-pound turkey smothered in the most scrumptious cranberry sauce mankind could ever hope to consume, and inevitably succumb to a food-induced coma on the couch that can only be awakened by the thrill of football and the lure of 1 a.m. Black Friday bargain madness. Today, this family-oriented-TV-food-football-and-shopping event is the type of Thanksgiving we all know and love, but can you imagine what it must have been like for the Pilgrims? I bet there are all sorts of things you didn't know about Thanksgiving that root both from the earliest documentations of the feast to its impact throughout history.

It's common knowledge that a group of Puritan English settlers came to America on a ship called the Mayflower, and started a colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts. While there, they faced some hard times, made friends with the Native Americans, had a great feast one day, and the the rest is history. Right? Uh, no. Not quite.

It turns out the traditional Thanksgiving we are familiar with today has come a long way from its initial observance almost 400 years ago. Here are 11 little-known facts about your favorite November holiday that will give you even more of a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving.

1. The first Thanksgiving lasted not one, not two, but three days.

That's right. If you thought you were full after one meal, imagine how you would feel if Thanksgiving lasted three days.

2. The first Thanksgiving may not have actually been the first.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621 have a special spot in the history textbooks, but there are 12 other claims to fame in Texas, Florida, Maine, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

3. Not everyone was initially thrilled with the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving.

Aside from its controversial origins as a symbol of strife for Native Americans, there were political disagreements about adopting Thanksgiving as well due to fear of the government exercising too much power over a New England practice. In particular, President Jefferson was vocal about his anti-Thanksgiving beliefs.

4. Thanksgiving wasn't celebrated on a Thursday until President Lincoln stepped in.

About 200 years after the original feast in Plymouth, a 30-year campaign by Sarah Josepha Hale — best known for writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and today's traditional Thanksgiving recipes — inspired President Lincoln to make the fourth Thursday of November a nationally recognized holiday. Throughout history, the dates have varied, but this is why we celebrate Thanksgiving at this time today.

5. Women were significantly underrepresented at the first Thanksgiving.

Historians predict only about five women out of 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag attended. This is because most women settlers did not survive the harsh conditions during the first year.

6. There were no forks at the first Thanksgiving.

Whoever told you the Pilgrims used a full set of utensils, you might want to put a fork in those lies — literally. The fork wasn't invented until about 10 years after the first Thanksgiving, and then once it was, it didn't become popular for about 200 years.

7. The original Thanksgiving menu was drastically different.

Believe it or not, your favorite holiday foods featuring turkey (and tofurky), sweet potatoes, cranberries, and sugary desserts were absent from the feast. Instead, plenty of venison, seafood, and waterfowl was served.

8. Thanksgiving is the reason TV dinners exist.

If Swanson's 97-cent chicken pot pies got you through hard times and college dorm life, you owe some gratitude to a Thanksgiving fluke in 1953. That's when the company overestimated the amount of frozen turkeys it would sell for the holidays. With the pressure of utilizing 26 tons of excess meat, the idea of repackaging turkey into a convenient little meal was born.

9. Squanto is the real MVP of this holiday.

Who's Squanto again? Oh, only one of the most important people who could have existed for the history of this country. Without Tisquantum, who knew English and had already traveled between England and the new world, the Pilgrims might not have survived. And without the Pilgrims, there'd be no Thanksgiving, or, you know, settlement and such.

10. Black Friday is statistically proven to be the busiest day for plumbers.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. Sure, there are probably more clogged toilets the day after everyone has had massive portion sizes all at once, but a popular plumbing company says it's actually because of improper use of sink drains and garbage disposals.

11. Other people outside of the 50 states celebrate Thanksgiving, too.

Other U.S. territories, like the Virgin Islands, celebrate two versions of Thanksgiving. Before the Pilgrims arrived, native Hawaiians had Makahiki, which was a four-month-long festival to give thanks for their land. And after the earliest Thanksgiving took place in Newfoundland in 1578, Canadians now celebrate their own Thanksgiving every second Monday in October.

For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.

Images: Giphy (11)