Friday Fives: The Top Five Things You May Not Know About Thanksgiving

In celebration of a wonderful holiday, each Friday Fives in November has been focusing on Thanksgiving. After all, there’s no reason to wait until the fourth Sunday to acknowledge an actual national holiday in which praise and thanks to God is the motivation.

On this week’s list, the top five things you may not know or realize about the Thanksgiving holiday.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17

#5 This is the 80th Anniversary of NFL Football on Thanksgiving  

NFL Football on Thanksgiving has become a tradition. But did you know that 2014 is the 80th anniversary of the first NFL Thanksgiving game? In 1934, radio executive G.A. Richards bought the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans NFL franchise and moved them to Detroit where they became the Lions. High school and college football on Thanksgiving Day was already popular, so Richards convinced the NFL to allow the Lions to play the defending world champion Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving, 1934 as a publicity stunt. The Lions lost 19-16 but a tradition was born.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 4.44.19 PM 

#4 The First Thanksgiving Was Over Three Days in October 

Franklin Roosevelt was responsible for Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday in November. Before that, it was all over the place. In fact, the very first Thanksgiving involved 50 English colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indian men giving thanks over three days in October.  Food historian Sarah Lohman writes, “The people who had the ‘first Thanksgiving’ didn’t really think of it as such. It was the end of the first growing season in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the Puritans threw a harvest festival to celebrate. The men went ‘fowling,’ or hunting wild birds. A large group of Wampanoag showed up with five deer.”



“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

#3 It Took Quite a While to Catch On

While the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621, it was many many years later when all 13 colonies finally celebrated Thanksgiving at once, in October 1777. In 1789, George Washington encouraged the holiday celebration, while President Thomas Jefferson was known to have pooh-poohed the concept, reportedly calling it,  “the most ridiculous idea.” For his part, Benjamin Franklin loved turkey so much that he tried to have it declared the national bird. Obviously he failed in that attempt.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 4.36.13 PM


#2 There Was a Connection Between a Lamb and the Turkey

Magazine Editor Sarah Josepha Hale is known as the woman who wrote the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But she also played a role in Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday. She wrote letters to various presidents over a 17 year period between 1846 and 1862. President Lincoln was the one who was convinced, issuing an 1863 proclamation recognizing Thanksgiving as a national holiday. You’ll find the story in the video that follows.


#1 Leading up to that First Thanksgiving Day, Two Ships of Pilgrims Set Sail

The Mayflower wasn’t the only ship that set off for the new world originally. At first, it was joined by a second ship, The Speedwell. However, because of several deceitful crew members (story in the video below) the Pilgrims gave up on The Speedwell and The Mayflower is the ship we learned about in elementary school.