The Ellwoodcity.org staff wishes all our readers and the community a wonderful Thanksgiving! I hope everyone enjoys the one day a year us Americans can eat large amounts of food. According to the Weather Channel, it should be a bid warm and possibly sunny, so winter isn’t here quite yet!
I will be on vacation for rest of the week, so I’ll leave you with random Thanksgiving trivia.
- Turkeys, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and squash are all native to North America so a classic Thanksgiving dinner is an inherently New World feast (source “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond).
- Tomatoes, corn and chocolate are also native to the Americas. As it turned out, Native Americans ate rather well compared to the bland Western European diet and the introduction of New World food to Europe, especially the potato, resulted in a population surge (source The Potato’s Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from a Historical Experiment by Nathan Nunn and Nathan Quian).
- There are many varieties of sweet potatoes- orange, white, purple and more. Orange sweet potatoes are frequently called yams. In reality, yams are a completely unrelated, and far larger, tuber native to Africa that is generally not sold in American grocery stores. Due to the resemblance, slaves referred to orange sweet potatoes as yams. The term caught on, leading to confused grocery store customers and produce clerks (source Congo Cook Book).
- Although several countries have official or unofficial holidays for giving thanks, Canada is the only nation with a historically-related Thanksgiving. Theirs is celebrated on the second Monday of October. This is possibly because winter starts earlier in Canada, thus harvest season is earlier. The holiday officially began in 1879 with an act of Parliament (source The Canadian Encyclopedia).
- Norfolk Island, an Australian territory 560 miles east of the mainland, oddly enough also celebrates Thanksgiving. The holiday was brought to the island by American whalers and is celebrated on the last Wednesday of the month (source Norfolk Island Information and Services).
- Thanksgiving was proclaimed by various local church and government leaders through the colonial and pre-Civil War era. Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as the official, nation-wide day in 1863 following the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July.
- Squanto, the friendly Native American who helped the Pilgrims, didn’t happen to speak English because it’s a cool language. His tale is rather sad. He was captured by Spanish explorers who eventually freed him. From there, he moved to England, learning the language. A few years before the Pilgrims arrived, Squanto returned home, only to find it abandoned and everyone he knew dead. The introduction of European diseases to the New World killed over 90% of the New World population. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they didn’t realize they had arrived in the wake of an apocalypse. Squanto saw how inept the Europeans were at surviving a New England winter, and he decided to be a nice guy and help them out, possibly because he really had nothing else to look forward to in life (source “Sqaunto” Encyclopedia Britannica).
- The celebration at Plymouth in 1621 is usually cited as the first observance of Thanksgiving, and New England colonies had both secular and religious observances throughout the 1600 and 1700’s. In general, the early English colonists that survived the trip across the Atlantic and their first winters were thankful they weren’t dead.