Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

10 Facts About Thanksgiving You Likely Didn't Know

Created: 26 November, 2015
Updated: 18 October, 2022
2 min read

Most Americans are familiar with the common Thanksgiving traditions. With a seat at a table filled with food and family, our turkeys, mashed potatoes, and gravy boats are all staples of a tradition. But what are some of the less traditional facts associated with Thanksgiving?

1. Thanksgiving on Alcatraz

Since 1975, hundreds of members of indigenous tribes have met on Alcatraz Island for the "Unthanksgiving Day" ceremony at sunrise to commemorate the survival of American Indians following the settlement of Europeans in North America.

2. Turkey Trumps State's Rights

Some states initially rejected the adoption of Thanksgiving as a national holiday because of the notion that the federal government was exercising too much power in implementing national holidays. Many southern states were also hesitant to observe the holiday because it was largely a New England practice.

3. Who Was First?

Though the famous pilgrim celebration at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621 is widely regarded as the first American Thanksgiving, there are other contenders who claim this title -- 12 to be exact: 2 in Texas, 2 in Florida, 2 in Virginia, one in Maine, and 5 in Massachusetts.

4. The Parade

Despite what many might think, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is not the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade and actually ties for second oldest. The oldest Thanksgiving parade is actually the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, named the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade.

5. Republican Thanksgiving vs. Democrat Thanksgiving

Party politics took over Thanksgiving when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 to give shoppers an extra week to shop for Christmas. Many Republicans rebelled since the holiday had traditionally been celebrated on the final Thursday of the month.

The holiday was temporarily celebrated on two different dates: November 30 became the "Republican Thanksgiving" and November 23 was "Franksgiving" or "Democrat Thanksgiving."

6. The First Game

Thanksgiving football games began with Yale versus Princeton in 1876.

7. Hurricane Thanksgiving Day

The Virgin Islands, a territory of the U.S., actually celebrates two Thanksgivings, the national holiday on the fourth Thursday of November and Hurricane Thanksgiving Day. On October 19, island residents will give thanks if there is no hurricane during the storm season.

8. Thanksgiving in Canada

The first recorded Thanksgiving was held in 1578. Martin Frobisher celebrated arriving safely in the new world. Thanksgiving Day is now held on the second Monday in October in Canada.

9.  A "Most Ridiculous" Holiday

President Thomas Jefferson believed a federal Thanksgiving proclamation was “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived."

10. The Mother of Thanksgiving

Editor and writer Sarah Hale urged President Abraham Lincoln to declare a national day of Thanksgiving on the final Thursday of November, and is largely credited for Lincoln's 1863 proclamation. She believed a day of Thanksgiving would unite Americans and “awaken in Americans’ hearts the love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren."

Photo Credit:  Tory Kallman / shutterstock.com