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Playground Equipment Blog
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Origins and Myths of Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving: togetherness, parades, and tons of turkey (or tofu stuffing). Our team looks forward to celebrating with friends and family each year. But did you know that many of the holiday stories and anecdotes surrounding Thanksgiving are myths? Read on to learn the real origins and traditions of American and Canadian Thanksgiving.

Abraham Lincoln declared it a holiday.

It’s true that the Mayflower brought Pilgrims to North America from Plymouth in 1620. And in 1621, they celebrated a bountiful harvest with a three-day gathering that was attended by the Wampanoag tribe.

But the origin story for the holiday was established retroactively, in the 1830s. At that time, a 19th-century magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, helped to invent the Thanksgiving we still celebrate. After reading about the 1621 feast, Hale began using it as a model for modern Thanksgiving, publishing recipes for turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie in the popular Godey's Lady's Book. She also lobbied Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an official holiday— and succeeded! According to accounts, Lincoln declared it official in 1863 as a kind of “thank you” to U.S. citizens for their perseverance and bloody Civil War victories, like the battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln recognized that the people needed something positive to celebrate to bring the country together and give the people hope.

It might not be the turkey that’s making you sleepy.

Do you have an uncle who takes a nap after the big meal every year? Well, his drowsiness might have more to do with booze, the overall size of the feast, or even a general feeling of holiday relaxation. Because the level of the organic amino acid, tryptophan, in most Thanksgiving birds isn't responsible for drowsiness. In fact, Many other rich foods—like beef or soybeans—report higher concentrations of the amino acid.

But that isn’t to say you should steer clear. Tryptophan produces other helpful substances, like melatonin, serotonin, and kynurenines. Serotonin affects mood and gives you a boost; melatonin aids in sleep regulation and kynurenines are thought to be immune system regulators. So, eat up. And treat yourself to a nap, regardless of the reason.

Squanto’s whole history was rather bleak.

Tisquantum, known as Squanto, was indeed a significant figure in the establishment of the colonies. He and his people, the Patuxet—a part of the Wampanoag tribe—previously lived on the Pilgrims’ settlement. He generously acted as a translator and diplomatic aid to the New Englanders as they began trading with the indigenous people. And he also taught the Pilgrims the proper way to plant crops and showed them where to fish.

However, that story doesn’t have such happy beginnings. The English captured Squanto 1614 and later sold him into slavery in Spain. At one point, he traveled back to England and learned to speak English. And finally, in 1619, he returned to his homeland, only to find the entire Patuxet tribe had been wiped out by smallpox. He then met the Pilgrims a few years later. So, at the time of the “First Thanksgiving,” his tribe was gone. But he used his skills to help the new settlers.

American and Canadian Thanksgiving fall during different Autumn months.

Canadian Thanksgiving already happened this year; it fell on Monday, October 8th, which was Columbus Day in the United States. American Thanksgiving will be on Thursday, November 22nd. So what’s the reason for the staggered dates? One possibility: because Canada is farther north, harvest comes earlier, which calls for an October celebration instead.

In Canada, Thanksgiving represents a spiritual holiday giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. In the U.S., we claim to celebrate the pilgrims’ feast with indigenous people, even if that’s not the whole story, while Canadians view Thanksgiving as a more culturally-neutral event. But plenty of Canadian historical dates coincide with the holidays. For example, when Canada was colonized, celebrations tended to mark Martin Frobisher’s successful crossing in 1578 or even war victories.

Did you know these surprising Thanksgiving facts?

I’ll have to admit, we were pretty shocked by some of the true origins of Thanksgiving. Perhaps the version we were taught in school doesn’t represent the whole truth? Maybe the positive takeaway is that we don’t need to feel obligated or bound by traditions that don’t suit us. Transform your holiday and fill it with rituals that makes sense to your family. What kinds of traditions do you celebrate? Sound off in the comments section below.

Written by: Parker Jones

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Navigating Black Friday and Holiday Sales to Get the Most for Your Family

According to statistics, Americans plan to spend $59.57 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year. And while much has been written about the need for Americans to curtail excess consumerism, for many people, especially working and middle-class families, Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent the only time of the year when they can afford to make big purchases. And not all of these purchases are frivolous. Some of the big-ticket items include mattresses, computers, Christmas presents, and entertainment for the kids. In a rough economy, many families have no choice but to brave the malls despite the stress, noise, and crowds.

We’re here to help make the process a little easier! How can you get the most bang for your buck without losing your sanity? Read on to find out our tips for getting the most out of the holiday sales.

Determine your budget.

Even with the impressive sales, shopping on Black Friday doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up spending within your means. Before opening your wallet, decide how much you can actually afford to spend, and stick to that number. Yes, that fancy new leather purse would go perfectly with your wardrobe, but pause before you buy. Don’t splurge at the detriment of quality of life and put it on a credit card. Determine which friends and family you plan to shop for, and then follow these tips:

Make a list. Check it twice.

Before you jump into the fray, make sure you’ve made a list of everything you want to buy. If it’s helpful, divide your list into two columns: needs and wants. A replacement dishwasher might go into the “needs” category along with school shoes for the kids and a family computer. While in the “wants” column, you might jot down items like a flat-screen TV, a new curling iron, or a high-tech cooler for camping trips. The key is to figure out who has the best deals ahead of time and plan your attack. From tech to clothes, many websites list the best sales to expect. So start plotting!

Some of the best deals happen on Cyber Monday.

You may not need to spend hours trying to find parking after all! Many retailers are putting their best deals up on Cyber Monday, meaning you can surf from the privacy of your couch (or your office during lunch). Check out this list of Cyber Monday sales, from big box retailers and online outlets. According to some websites, deals are already happening.

Pause. Breathe. Reflect.

Do you get a rush from online shopping? You’re not alone. And you may attribute that euphoric feeling to the purchase of a new item. However, studies show that dopamine is released in anticipation of a reward, meaning you can actually get that rush just by window shopping.

So, put your wishlist items in your shopping cart, enjoy the dopamine boost, and then decide whether or not you can afford to buy it. If it’s the right choice, it will still be there ten minutes later, after you’ve made yourself a cup of tea or walked around the block.

Check out Canada’s “Black Friday” on the day after Christmas.

Canadians and Americans can take advantage of each other’s big sales days by purchasing from each other’s companies online. In Canada, you probably won’t find department stores flooded with people the day after Thanksgiving the way they are in the United States.

In fact, Canadians’ big shopping day, also known as Boxing Day, falls on the 26th of December and is recognized as a holiday. It may have taken its name from a U.K. tradition in which heads of the household boxed gifts for their servants. It’s also a day when stores hope to liquidate gifts that didn’t get sold as holiday presents. And many big-box stores participate.

Couldn’t afford to buy that fancy toy set for your kids at market price? Try searching the web for holiday sales in Canada. If you need to take advantage of a day-after-Christmas sale, consider printing out a picture of the gift for kids or family members to unbox on Christmas morning.

What’s your game plan for Black Friday shopping this year?

Do you have any tried and true strategies? Please share your tips with us! Let’s shop smarter together.

Written by: Parker Jones