6 Thanksgiving Traditions That Are Total Bullsh*t

Everything you thought you knew about Thanksgiving is wrong. Traditions that make Thanksgiving so special are built on a tall stack of carb-laden lies. So be sure to tell your relatives that before they sit down for their first bite of fried turkey and cranberries. They were going to ruin it for you with either a racist rant or photos from their gall bladder surgery.

1. The Pilgrims

Let’s start with the Pilgrims. For starters, they didn’t call themselves Pilgrims. They called themselves “Puritans.” And even if they did, the ones on the Mayflower who landed on Plymouth Rock weren’t the first to land on American soil. A group of Protestant colonists from France fled for what would become America to practice their faith and hit up some Spanish ships so they could steal their treasure along the way. Presumably, they gave thanks for their stolen treasure afterwards.

Gettin’ his Puritan on.

The reason they fled for the New World has also been through a couple of extra drafts to punch up the story. The New England Puritans did leave England in the early 1600s to escape the forces of religious persecution but when they landed in the New World, they set up their own religious persecution factory with an unchecked theocracy that did not tolerate dissent. Members who disagreed were banished from the city and a small number who tried to return were hanged.

2. The First Thanksgiving Dinner

We’re about to ruin everything you love about Thanksgiving, mainly the food. If you’re that upset about it, chances are you could afford to have one less helping of stuffing. Your circulatory system will thank you.

The famed three-day dinner did actually happen between those early settlers and members of the Wampanoag tribe in 1621 but it featured almost none of the foods that are staples of the modern holiday feast. Turkey, sweet cranberries and pie weren’t on the menu. It’s more likely that they had venison, fowl like duck and geese and seafood including clams and lobsters that were easier to gather and cook. They also ate something called “sobaheg,” a stewed mixture of corn, roots, beats, squash and meat. This also destroys the notion that seconds were served at the first Thanksgiving dinner.

A rare photo.

So how did we go from the world’s chunkiest stew to delicious turkey? It’s all thanks to a poet and magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. She ran a guidebook in the mid to late 19th century called Godey’s Lady’s Book and came across the story of the famous feast. She published a story on her discovery in her publication but she fudged a few facts on the menu and singlehandedly invented the entire Thanksgiving meal. She started lobbying the government to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday and she successfully convinced President Abraham Lincoln to do so in 1863.

3. The Day Itself

Lincoln’s proclamation also wasn’t the first to establish a Thanksgiving holiday. President George Washington beat him to the punch 74 years earlier. President George Washington established the first “Day of Public Thanksgiving” with a proclamation in 1789 issued at the behest of the first Federal Congress. The first holiday took place on Thursday, Nov. 26th, 1789 but the day of the holiday moved several times until Lincoln established it as the last Thursday in the month of the November presumably so we could have a holiday to ignore to appease the beast that is Christmas.

Things got even more confusing when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving in 1939 to any Thursday between the second to last Thursday of November to give more people time to shop for Christmas and keep the nation’s economy strong. States either proclamations with different dates for the holiday or refused to pass one at all. So Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 firmly setting Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.

4. Pumpkin Pie

A big reason so many people put up with dry turkey, lumpy gravy and runny cranberry sauce is just so they can get to that delectable slice of pumpkin pie. The problem is that they aren’t eating pumpkin. They’re actually eating squash.

Pretty much every canned brand of pumpkin pie filling is actually made from winter squash varieties like butternut, Boston Marrow and Golden Delicious. That’s because they are actually sweeter than pumpkin flesh and have a less stringy texture that would make you wonder if someone discarded their used floss in the filling factory’s vats.

You can blame the USDA for letting the manufacturer call it “pumpkin” on the can. Their definition of canned puree includes “pumpkins and squashes” and since some specific varieties of winter squash can be labeled as pumpkins, the USDA lets them get away with it. Plus, if the USDA is convening a congressional committee on forcing companies to call pumpkin pie squash, then we’re all more doomed than we thought.

5. The Presidential Turkey Pardon

Every year at Thanksgiving, the President steps out of the White House and grants immunity to a single turkey as a gesture of good faith in case the turkeys ever try to rise up and destroy us “Planet of the Apes” style. This tradition, however, isn’t nearly as old as the holiday.

Some legends state that President Harry Truman started the tradition but the Truman Library has never found any documents or records to back up such a claim. There are stories of other presidents letting turkeys live at Thanksgiving as far back as Lincoln but President George H.W. Bush was actually the first commander-in-chief to grant a presidential pardon to a turkey in 1989. Every president since has been carrying on this insane presidential tradition.

6. Falling Asleep from Eating Turkey

This tradition may not be written into any proclamations but it’s just as traditional as letting a fart go in front of relatives or taking your diabetes medication. However, it’s not the turkey that makes you fall asleep in front of the TV. Tryptophan, the amino acid found in turkey, does produce serotonin in your brain but it’s not what makes you feel sleepy. First of all, the level of tryptophan in the turkey is actually quite low or at least not enough to put you into a coma all by itself. The real cause is every bite of food you’ve eaten and all the carbs causing your body to slow down and make you sleepy.

The massive amount of food in your system causes your body to release more insulin. This removes amino acids from your bloodstream leaving tryptophan an open window to rush to the brain and produce more of the serotonin that makes you fall asleep. The Detroit Lions’ lackluster defense also probably helps a little.

Danny Gallagher is a freelance writer, humorist, blogger and turducken greaser. He can be found on Twitter @thisisdannyg