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Common misperceptions about Thanksgiving

Turkey likely wasn't the main course at the first Thanksgiving.

As a nation of immigrants, it's little wonder that so many people who transfer money abroad consider Thanksgiving one of the most important holidays of the year. The annual tradition celebrates all that people have to be thankful for, which is typically exemplified by feasting on foods that have become synonymous with Thanksgiving, such as turkey, yams, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

However, because so many people have turkey on Thanksgiving – a whopping 88 percent serve it as the main course, in fact, according to the National Turkey Federation – some may think that white and dark meat has always been served, dating back to the original dinner celebration in the 1600s.

In reality, though, there are a number of misperceptions about Thanksgiving that some people may be confused by, one of them pertaining to turkey. These misunderstandings may be frequent among immigrants, many of whom have spent most of their lives in another country.

Here are a few of them.

For example, historians largely believe that turkey was likely not served when colonists and the Wampanoag had the first Thanksgiving. That's because turkey was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today. In fact, according to the NTF, 248 million turkeys were raised in the U.S. last year alone – or the equivalent of about one for every two people who currently live in the U.S.

Historians say that the menu items at the first Thanksgiving meal likely included wild goose or duck, deer, corn, fish and shellfish. Turkey may have been served as well, but it wasn't the center piece like it is today.

Something else that some people may mistakenly believe is that Thanksgiving has been celebrated in one form or another since the 1620s. In reality, Thanksgiving wasn't made a holiday until 1863, as directed by Abraham Lincoln, who was president at the time. But even then, it wasn't made an official national holiday until 1941. It was at this time that Congress said the forth Thursday in each November would be celebrated as Thanksgiving. This may help explain why the dates for Thanksgiving change from year to year.

There's also some misunderstandings about why Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday. While the day does have its roots with early settlers, it wasn't until a woman named Sarah Hale made her opinion known that the holiday was made official.

Hale was a magazine editor who was highly influential. Historians say that for 40 years, she urged legislators to recognize Thanksgiving.

"Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival and observed by all our people," Hale once said.

Other countries celebrate Thanksgiving
Finally, it's often said that the U.S. is the only country that celebrates Thanksgiving. But immigrants may be the most highly qualified people to put this myth to rest. Several countries celebrate their own versions of Thanksgiving. For instance in Germany, Erntedankfest is also known as the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival. The day is celebrated in October and usually includes families and friends gathering for a feast.

Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving, only theirs is in October. However, similar to Germany and the U.S., it's recognized by loved ones dining together.

Japan, Liberia, the Netherlands and the Island of Grenada are a few other countries where Thanksgiving-like holidays are celebrated.

Over the next few days, pause and give thanks for the things that helped make for a great life in the U.S., whether that's being able to live in a free society, having the capability to send money home to loved ones, good health and well being or gratitude for the original immigrants of the U.S. who helped make the country what it is today.
 

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