How Much Do You Know About The History Of Thanksgiving?


By: Lenore Brown

7 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Stuffing oneself is a right of passage during the Thanksgiving holiday, but where did these traditions come from? This quiz will test your knowledge of the history of Thanksgiving.

When did the first Thanksgiving take place?

In 1621, the first Thanksgiving was observed, though it most likely was not referred to by that name at the time. The event is now commonly known as Thanksgiving, though it did not become a national holiday until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday to be observed in November.


What is the name of the Native American tribe who ate with the pilgrims?

The Wampanoag were the tribe of Native Americans who sat down with the pilgrims and enjoyed a meal in thanks and camaraderie. The name Wampanoag means Easterners. They were originally from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, befriending the pilgrims when they landed. These Native Americans were very skilled at planting a variety of crops and hunting to obtain meat.


What was the name of the ship the pilgrims sailed on?

In the fall of 1620, the Mayflower set sail from England for the New World. It was a rather small ship, with only 102 passengers. The dangerous voyage lasted roughly 66 days, but the ship did touch down in Cape Cod at the mouth of the Hudson River, north of their intended destination.


Where did the pilgrims work to establish a village?

After crossing the Massachusetts Bay, the settlers worked to create a village at Plymouth. There was certainly opportunity to get food from both land and sea. However, the first winter was very difficult and some did not survive. Though many remained on the ship during the winter, disease broke out and only half of the passengers and crew lived through the harsh cold to see warmer weather.


Who taught the pilgrims how to grow corn, collect sap from maple trees, catch fish, and avoid poisonous plants?

Squanto, of the Pawtuxet tribe, was familiar with English people. He had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery, but he escaped and returned to the New World. He befriended the pilgrims and taught them valuable skills to survive, helping them grow food and avoid dangers in the wilderness. He also helped them form friendships with other Native Americans.


Who was the pilgrims' governor?

William Bradford was the governor of the settlers in November 1621, and he felt like celebrating after the first successful harvest. Together with their Native American friends, they enjoyed a celebratory feast that became known as Thanksgiving. Their Thanksgiving meal lasted for three days, which is sometimes as long as people's holiday leftovers last!


Before Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday, which state declared it to be an annual holiday?

In 1817, New York was the first state to declare an annual Thanksgiving holiday, and other states soon followed, though none celebrated it on the same day. This celebration was generally limited to the Northern states, but in 1863 President Lincoln instituted it as a national holiday. In 1939, President Roosevelt tried to move the date to a week earlier than the fourth Thursday in November, but people did not like it. In 1941, he signed a bill declaring Thanksgiving would officially fall on the fourth Thursday of the eleventh month.


Which bird typically serves as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal for many American families today?

The turkey has become a staple of an American Thanksgiving meal, even though it may not have been present at the first meal with the pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621. Americans don't seem to care though, as about 90 percent of them roast, bake, or deep-fry the bird for their Thanksgiving meals. Other traditional Thanksgiving foods, like pumpkin or pecan pie, were most certainly not present at that meal in 1621.


Since 1924, which department store has produced New York City's Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Macy's has produced New York City's Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1924. The parade regularly draws in millions of spectators and millions more television viewers. Giant floats, celebrities, extensive news coverage, and performances along the route make this a parade to remember. The Radio City Rockettes often make an appearance as well.


What ritual does the U.S. president take part in on Thanksgiving Day?

Since the mid-20th century, U.S. presidents have pardoned one or two Thanksgiving turkeys each year from becoming Thanksgiving dinner. The turkeys are then sent to a farm to live out their days. This event is often televised, and sometimes the President's children are present as well.


What was the name given to the group of people coming over on the Mayflower?

Separatists were English Protestants who did not agree with the practices of the Church of England. They had many arguments and complaints against the church, most having to do with the similarities with the Roman Catholic Church. They also disliked inappropriate behavior and lax standards. Wanting to start over and separate from the Church of England, many came over to the New World on the Mayflower.


Which sport is often watched by Americans on Thanksgiving?

The Thanksgiving Day football game is enjoyed by many families across America. Since 1934, the Detroit Lions have always played on Thanksgiving Day. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys also began playing on most Thanksgiving Days. A third football game is also broadcast on the holiday, but the teams that play in it are not regularly set. Teams playing on Thanksgiving enjoy increased publicity and awareness for their teams and the sport in general.


Which U.S. state has historically produced the most turkeys?

Minnesota produces approximately 46 million turkeys each year. Other than Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri and Indiana raise the most turkeys. Over 200 million turkeys are raised in the U.S. each year, with about 46 million being eaten at Thanksgiving.


Which Peanuts character has appeared more times in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade than any other character?

Snoopy, the lovable beagle, has appeared more times as a giant balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade than any other Peanuts character. In fact, he has appeared more than any other character in history. Snoopy gained fame from the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles Schulz.


In what year were fans first able to watch the Thanksgiving Day football game on television?

In 1934, the Thanksgiving Day football game was broadcast over the radio. However, in 1956, fans with a television were able to watch the game on TV for the first time. Other shows on television during this time period included I Love Lucy and The Ed Sullivan Show.


The day after Thanksgiving is a day for bargain hunters to find deals in malls and other stores. What is this day called?

The day after Thanksgiving marks Black Friday, a day where retailers offer steep discounts not seen at any other time of the year. Shoppers line up at some stores starting Thanksgiving night, often camping out for the best deals. Sometimes shoppers get overzealous, and stampedes have been known to happen!


Online shoppers will find deals the Monday after Thanksgiving, called what?

Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving, a day when online retailers offer steep discounts to shoppers. Free shipping, extra clearance deals, and lots of coupons are par for the course on Cyber Monday. Some consumers prefer to avoid the in-person lines on Black Friday and get right to purchasing online on Cyber Monday. Only time will tell which day proves more popular.


Which popular dinner table accessory wasn't present at the pilgrims' meal?

The pilgrims would have used spoons and knives to enjoy their meal, as forks weren't in use until at least a decade later. In fact, they didn't become popular until the 18th century. Hey, if the meal's good enough, eat it with your hands!


Which president is rumored to have started the turkey pardoning ceremony?

President Harry Truman has been rumored to be the president to start the turkey pardoning ceremony, although other presidents have also let turkeys live to see another day. Some say that Truman was rumored to enjoy the turkeys for dinner, while President Kennedy was really the first to unofficially pardon a turkey. Many say President H.W. Bush was the first to officially pardon a turkey in 1989. Whatever the history, the Presidential turkey pardon is a lighthearted annual tradition that exists in Thanksgiving history.


Eating too much turkey is rumored to cause what?

Eating too much turkey in one sitting has long been thought to cause drowsiness, though the general act of eating too much food can cause this as well. Some say that it's really the enjoyment of a glass of wine or relaxing after the busy holiday that can cause drowsiness. Whatever the case, it's not uncommon to see your uncle snoring away on the couch every year. Oh, what a sight to be thankful for!


Which U.S. state has historically consumed the most turkey on Thanksgiving Day?

Out of all the people in the U.S., the people of California eat the most turkey on Thanksgiving Day. California does have a large population, which may be a factor. However, their tastes in cuisine do vary, which might lead to slightly different Thanksgiving meals across the state.


Which company offers a Turkey Talk-Line hotline?

Butterball has offered a Turkey Talk-Line hotline since 1981, and they now help over 100,000 callers from November to December each year with answers to questions about Thanksgiving meal preparation. But if talking on the phone isn't their preference, consumers can email, text, use live chat on the company's website, or social media. You'll never have to worry about ruining the Thanksgiving meal ever again!


What is another name for male turkeys?

Male turkeys are also called toms. Unlike female turkeys, they are the only ones that can gobble. Female turkeys make clicking or clucking sounds and are also known as hens.


Which job has its busiest day of the year on Black Friday?

Plumbers reportedly have their busiest day of the year on Black Friday, most likely due to the increase in shower usage from family visits and toilet flushing after large Thanksgiving meals. In addition, Thanksgiving leftovers often get put down the kitchen garbage disposal, only to clog it up. No Black Friday shopping for plumbers! They have work to do.


Who wanted the turkey to be America's national bird?

Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be America's national bird, as he felt bald eagles had "bad moral character" and turkeys were a "much more respectable bird." However, the bald eagle was chosen in 1782 as the nation's bird, despite Mr. Franklin's dislike. The bird is seen in many places of prominence, particularly noticeable on the Great Seal of the United States. But on Thanksgiving, turkeys are the bird of the day.


On average, which Thanksgiving food has the most calories?

Pecan pie is often the most calorie-laden of all the foods served at Thanksgiving, which might contribute to the roughly 3,000 calories Americans consume each year on the holiday. Add whipped cream or a sugar crust to the pie, and the calories pile up even more. Perhaps the "everything in moderation" saying doesn't apply on Thanksgiving!


Which of these Thanksgiving foods was used by Native Americans as a dye and a medicine?

Cranberries are one of only three fruits native to North America, and the Native Americans used them for many purposes. Besides eating, they used them as a dye for fabrics, as well as a medicine to treat illnesses and arrow wounds. These days, Americans eat cranberries at Thanksgiving often in the form of a sauce or jelly.


In 2001, the government a new part of the Thanksgiving holiday. What was it?

In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service debuted a new Thanksgiving-themed stamp featuring a cornucopia filled with food. The stamp was meant to show gratitude for the abundance of goods that exist in America, and no doubt many Americans used the stamp to send their holiday letters. Stamps for other holidays exist as well, and Americans can chose to adorn their mail with many different types of designs.


What is done with the wishbone on Thanksgiving?

The wishbone tradition dates back to 322 B.C. with the Etruscans. When the Romans conquered England, they brought the tradition with them and it caught on. When English settlers came over to America, they brought the tradition with them to the New World.


There is another remembrance that occurs on Thanksgiving Day, observed by some indigenous people. What is it called?

People indigenous to the land can participate in a remembrance that is called "a national day of mourning" that takes place on Coles Hill in Massachusetts. This action is carried out in observance of the mistreatment of Native Americans and the destruction of their culture that occurred over the years. They do not see Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks.


Settlers who were not so friendly with Native Americans may have referred to them as what?

Some settlers were not friendly with Native Americans, even plotting to slaughter them. They referred to Native Americans as heathens, viewing them as un-Christian savages who were a danger to others.


What author campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday?

Sarah Josepha Hale wrote novels and nursery rhymes, among other things, and she heavily campaigned for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. She wrote numerous letters to government officials across the country, urging them to make Thanksgiving a national holiday on par with the Fourth of July.


What is the "Popcorn Myth?"

The "Popcorn Myth" is the belief that the Native Americans taught the pilgrims how to make popcorn. However, the corn they grew did not lend itself well to popping. They had other ways of making it into a snack and a dessert.


Which of these original Thanksgiving foods is not typically seen on Thanksgiving tables today?

The pilgrims and Native Americans enjoyed many of our Thanksgiving staples in addition to seafood such as cod, bass, other fish, and most likely clams and lobster as well. Being so close to the water, fish was an easy source of food.


Stereotypical pilgrims are often pictured wearing what colors?

Pilgrims are often pictured wearing black and white, but in reality, they wore a variety of colors. When a pilgrim passed away, an inventory was made of their belongings. These inventories have shown historians the types and colors of clothing worn by pilgrims. They were a fashionable bunch!


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