Thanksgiving is a very popular Holiday here in the USA, but what exactly is it? Why do we celebrate it? Here is some information and fun facts about the origins of Thanksgiving and why it means so much to people all across America.
What is Thanksgiving?
Each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans gather for a day of feasting, football and family. While today’s Thanksgiving celebrations would likely be unrecognizable to attendees of the original 1621 harvest meal, it continues to be a day for Americans to come together around the table—albeit with some updates to pilgrim’s menu.
Most stories of Thanksgiving history start with the harvest celebration of the pilgrims and the Native Americans that took place in the autumn of 1621. Although they did have a three-day feast in celebration of a good harvest, and the local natives did participate, this “first thanksgiving” was not a holiday, simply a gathering. There is little evidence that this feast of thanks led directly to our modern Thanksgiving Day holiday. Thanksgiving can, however, be traced back to 1863 when Pres. Lincoln became the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving Day. The holiday has been a fixture of late November ever since.
- The pilgrims didn’t use forks; they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers!
- Mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, popcorn, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberries were not foods present on the first Thanksgiving’s feast table.
- The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days.
- Each year, the president of the U.S pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner!
- Wild turkeys can run 20 miles per hour when they are scared – catch it while you can! 🙂
Have left over pumpkins from Halloween? Try this delicious recipe for the perfect Pumpkin Pie
- Pie Crust (You can buy from the grocery store or make your own)
- 2 cups (15oz can; 450g) pumpkin puree*
- 3 large eggs
- 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) dark brown sugar*
- 1 Tablespoon (15g) cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
- 1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg*
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (60ml) milk (I use 1% – any is fine)
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk
- 1 cup (120g) fresh cranberries*
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240ml) water
If decorating your pie with sugared cranberries, start them the night before. You’ll also begin the pie crust the night before as well (the dough needs at least 2 hours to chill; overnight is best). The filling can be made the night before as well. In fact, I prefer it that way. It gives the spices, pumpkin, and brown sugar flavors a chance to infuse and blend. It’s awesome. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the cranberries: Place cranberries in a large bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of sugar and the water to a boil and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour sugar syrup over the cranberries and stir. Let the cranberries sit for 6 hours or overnight (ideal). You’ll notice the sugar syrup is quite thick after this amount of time. Drain the cranberries from the syrup and pour 1 cup of sugar on top. Toss the cranberries, coating them all the way around. Pour the sugared cranberries on a parchment paper or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet and let them dry for at least 2 hours.
For the filling: Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, and brown sugar together until combined. Add the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, cream, and milk. Vigorously whisk until everything is combined. Filling will be a little thick.
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Make the pie crust leaves: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the balls of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Roll out into any shape you really want (doesn’t matter) and 1/8 inch thickness. Using leaf cookie cutters, cut into shapes. Brush each lightly with the beaten egg + milk mixture. Cut leaf veins into leaves using a sharp knife, if desired. Place onto a parchment paper or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside to cool.
Turn oven up to 375F degrees.
Roll out the chilled pie crust: Remove second pie dough from the refrigerator. On the same floured work surface, turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9-inch deep dish pie. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. With a small and sharp knife, trim the extra overhang of crust and discard. Crimp the edges with your fingers, if desired. Brush edges lightly with beaten egg/milk mixture. Pre-bake crust for 10 minutes.
Pour pumpkin pie filling into the pre-baked crust. If you did not use a deep dish pie pan, you will have too much filling. Only fill the crust about 3/4 of the way up. Use extra to make mini pies with leftover pie dough scraps if you’d like. Bake the pie until the center is almost set, about 55-60 minutes give or take. A small part of the center will be wobbly – that’s ok. After 25 minutes of baking, be sure to cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil or use a piecrust shield to prevent the edges from getting too brown. Check for doneness at minute 50, and then 55, and then 60, etc.
Once done, transfer the pie to a wire rack and allow to cool completely for at least 3 hours. Decorate with sugared cranberries and pie crust leaves. You’ll definitely have leftover cranberries – they’re tasty for snacking. Serve pie with whipped cream if desired. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Pumpkin pie freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
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