We all know the often told story of how the pilgrims left England seeking religious freedom and finally settled in the New World at Plymouth in what is now the state of Massachusetts. And how in 1621 they invited the local natives to share a dinner with them in order to give thanks for a successful harvest and surviving their first year.
From those humble beginnings have come many facts and just as many myths about the pilgrims and our Thanksgiving holiday.
I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, followed by some Thanksgiving facts. And next week…those naughty pilgrims.
Myth: The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday. That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.
Myth: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November in 1939, a decision fraught with controversy. The date was approved by Congress in 1941.
Myth: The pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact: Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century. Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.
Here's a list of facts that could be called Thanksgiving-by-the-numbers.
3,000—the number of calories eaten during an average Thanksgiving meal.
12,000,000—the number of whole turkeys Butterball sells for Thanksgiving.
2,000 - 3,000—the number of people used to guide the balloons during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
214—the average number of miles driven for the family get together at Thanksgiving.
1939—the date the Great Thanksgiving Day calendar controversy began (when FDR declared the fourth Thursday of November to be the official date of Thanksgiving).
23.3—the percentage of Black Friday shoppers who arrive at stores before five o'clock in the morning.
40,000,000—the number of green bean casseroles made for Thanksgiving dinner.
72,000,000—the number of cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce sold for Thanksgiving dinner.
Next week I'll contradict the belief that the pilgrims embodied the very soul of purity and piety.