Ms. Hale worked tirelessly writing letters to the Presidents because she thought it was a good idea to have a holiday where all Americans could collectively give thanks. Her passionate letters and essays finally caught up with Abraham Lincoln. With a nation divided Lincoln thought the idea was a good one and thus declared the last Thursday in November, as Thanksgiving.
But FDR would later try to move this date up, in an effort to boost the economy and get an extra week for holiday shopping. For one year, 1940, this caused much confusion, so much that America actually had two Thanksgivings that year. Some states recognized FDR's decree, while others still followed Lincoln's last Thursday declaration. Congress eventually agreed to make it the 4th Thursday of the month instead of the last Thursday. You can read about the whole story here.
The first Thanksgiving, the one celebrated in 1621 by Plymouth (or Plimouth) colonists and Wampanoag Indians, didn't have lamb on the menu... but it may have had turkey.
There are only two items historians know for sure were on the menu; venison and wild fowl. These are mentioned in primary sources.
Below is one of the more detailed descriptions of the "First Thanksgiving". It comes from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621, by Edward Winslow:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of
our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
For a full list off what might have been on the menu, including eel and lobster, and what was definitely not on the menu... click the link below: http://www.history.com/minisites/thanksgiving/viewPage?pageId=873
Did You Know That...
According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association.The cranberry is one of only three fruits that are entirely native to North American soil.
Without cheating, take a guess at what the other two are...