Every year, millions of Americans come together as families and communities to give thanks, celebrate life, and eat insane amounts of food. Thanksgiving is a national opportunity to recognize and reflect upon the good things in our lives in the midst of life’s difficulties. It is certainly the most popular holiday that emphasizes the importance and value of food. Can you believe it’s only two weeks away?
As popular as Thanksgiving is, there are always many new and fun things to learn about it. Here are a few!
- The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The 50 English Pilgrims who arrived there and almost a hundred Wampanoag Native Americans enjoyed a three-day harvest feast consisting of fish, poultry (including turkey), lobster, and a variety of fruits and vegetables like corn, squash, and berries.
- Thanksgiving was first declared a holiday by George Washington in 1789 and set to take place on November 26th. Almost a hundred years later, however, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the fourth Thursday of every November would be celebrated as Thanksgiving instead.
- Every year in the United States since 1987 (or possibly the 1960s), a single turkey has been “pardoned” by the president. It is spared from being eaten and instead sent to a special farm to live out the rest of its life alongside other pardoned turkeys. Last year, President Obama chose to pardon two turkeys, one named Honest and the other Abe.
- Turkey is actually not making you sleepy. While it contains tryptophan, which is a precursor for serotonin and thus helpful for sleep, the sleepiness is mostly due to simple overeating. The drowsiness following the hefty holiday meal is likely the usual “food coma”, known fancily as postprandial somnolence. It was once thought to be due to a redistribution of blood flow to your digestive system but it’s probably caused by hormone and nerve interactions.
- It’s probably obvious that we tend to overdo it on calories at Thanksgiving. While a single day of excessive eating might not derail you in the long term, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of this meal. Try going easy on the sides and dessert, which alone contribute 1,500 calories to the total, and limit the use of butter in dishes like cooked vegetables and mashed potatoes, and maybe sneak in a quick Thanksgiving Day workout to burn a few extra calories. You can also start upping your activity now by checking out the UNLV SRWC for events and free group fitness classes this month.