Thanksgiving is a day of plenty.
It’s the day when we celebrate the harvest.
Express gratitude for the abundance in our lives.
It’s one of the holidays I love most.
The best holiday in the world.
Because it’s based on one of the most important things in life—gratitude.
To celebrate, I thought I’d share some little-known facts about Thanksgiving…and thanks itself!
The First Thanksgiving
We all know the story.
The Mayflower lost nearly half of their original colonists after landing at Plymouth Rock in December 1620.
The remaining Pilgrims survived the harsh winter thanks to a lot of help from some local Native Americans.
Following a successful harvest in 1621, the Pilgrims and Natives came together for a three-day festival to give thanks.
And America’s first Thanksgiving was born.
But Was It Really the First?
That’s a tough question. Certainly it was the beginning of the way we celebrate in the U.S. today. But historians disagree as to whether it was truly the first day of thanks on record.
Here are some facts that will make you realize that the Thanksgiving tradition is a very old one indeed:
- Spanish Explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilé held a mass to thank God for his safe arrival in St. Augustine, Florida and then invited the Timucua tribe to a dinner. That was in 1565.
- In 1619, 38 settlers landed on the banks of the James River in Virginia and proclaimed the date “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God”.
- Both the Separatists and the Puritans who settled the New World brought with them traditions of thanking God in times of plenty from the ‘Old World’.
- Before the Europeans discovered the New World, Native Americans celebrated the fall harvest with feasts and festivities.
- Even the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians celebrated their own form of Thanksgiving with festivals in which they gave thanks to their gods during harvest season.
The tradition of gathering family, friends and villages to give thanks for abundance spans the globe and many millennia.
And Maybe We Need to Revisit Some Our Thanksgiving Myths…
Did you know…?
We refer to the settlers as Pilgrims, but they didn’t call themselves that.
And they didn’t have big silver buckles on their shoes.
Or dress in black clothing.
In fact, contrary to the typical pictures we see, the settlers actually dressed in bright, cheery garb.
And by the way, the Native Americans didn’t wear giant feathered headdresses and woven blankets, either!
Maybe more to the point (since Thanksgiving is a day of eating after all), they didn’t eat what we eat on Thanksgiving today.
All those turkeys and stuffing just weren’t available. Legend has it that the main dish on that first celebration was lobster!
A Few More Fun Thanksgiving Facts
- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is almost 90 years old. 44 million watch it on TV while 3 million watch from the sidewalks of New York City.
- Sarah Josepha Hale, writer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, is said to have convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
- The first Thanksgiving Day football game was broadcast on the radio in 1934 when the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears. The first game broadcast on television was in 1956. And it’s been a tradition since.
- The biggest pumpkin pie ever made (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) was over 12 feet long, weighed over 2,000 pounds and required 900 pounds of pumpkin.
Is There Room at the Thanksgiving Table for Plant-Based Eaters?
There’s no reason not to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving meal on a plant-based diet.
All you do is subtract the animal-based foods.
That leaves you with A LOT: corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, squash, greens, rice, green beans, nuts and, of course, apples, pumpkin and cranberries.
We’re going to give you a super yummy plant-based Thanksgiving menu, but in the meantime, here are a few foodie tips for the holiday:
- Grab your favorite recipes and figure out how to replace the animal-based ingredients, oils, and refined sugar.
- Plan to make a main dish out of a side. Winter squash and potatoes make great centerpiece dishes.
- Make a feast of fixings. Load up the table with side dishes and snacks.
I love to cook.
And there is nothing more fun or satisfying than creating a Thanksgiving feast for friends and family.
But at the end of the day, what really counts is giving thanks.
Why Gratitude Matters
It’s so important for our spirits.
But did you know it is also really good for your health?
Over at Berkeley, researchers studied a thousand people who ranged in age from 8 years old to 80.
Their findings were remarkable.
People who consistently practice gratitude see positive physical, psychological and even social benefits.
- Are more optimistic and happier
- Have stronger immune systems
- Suffer fewer aches and pains
- Are more compassionate and generous
- Feel high levels of positive emotions
- Have lower blood pressure
- And sleep better.
But it’s more than that.
Gratitude lets us live in the present.
To appreciate the value of our friends, our family, our work, our community in the now.
And the more you appreciate something, the less you take it for granted.
Thank You—for Being You!
At this wonderful season, I would love to take a few moments to express my gratitude…
For an amazing year.
For our fans – the ones who are already plant-based and those just beginning the journey.
For everyone who signed up and showed up for our events.
For everyone who read and/or commented on our blog, or engaged with us on social media.
For our amazing supporters in the plant-based medical community – respected colleagues upon whom I rely – Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall and Greger and Jeff Novick. Since Day One, they have freely communicated their knowledge with our MDs, nurses, students and staff and always been happy to advise us on and share our articles with their followers.
And of course, my wonderful and supportive family.
I am deeply, deeply grateful.
And to show you my thanks, here is a hand-crafted plant-based Thanksgiving menu just for you. From my Thanksgiving table to yours…