Q When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?

A: While the first Thanksgiving dates back to the Pilgrims, it was many years after that Thanksgiving in 1621 that the day became a national holiday. In 1789, President George Washington recommended to the American public that Nov. 26 be a day of prayer. However, not all of the American public bought into this idea and thus it wasn’t observed as a holiday until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it so in 1863.

Many people credit magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale for persuading President Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Around 1939, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving forward, to the fourth Thursday of November, which is when we currently celebrate this holiday. In 1991, the Farmers’ Almanac campaigned to have Thanksgiving moved to October (similar to our Canadian neighbors) so holiday travelers could avoid bad winter weather, and so there would be a little more time between the two big holidays of the year – Thanksgiving and Christmas. We must admit, most of our readers hated the idea of tinkering with the date of this holiday.

QWhy is warm milk believed to help people fall asleep?

A: The idea of warm milk as a sleep aid seems to come from an amino acid called tryptophan, which is found in milk (and turkey). Tryptophan is thought to play a role in making people sleepy by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain (serotonin has sedative qualities).

However, there is no scientific proof that there is enough tryptophan in a glass of milk to actually induce a sedative effect in your brain. In fact, some sources reveal that you’d have to drink as much as a half-gallon of milk to ingest enough tryptophan to make a difference. So does a glass of warm milk really help you fall asleep? The benefits seem to be more psychological than scientific.

QAt this time of year, I see cloves listed in many recipes. I have them in my kitchen but I was wondering what are cloves and where do they come from?

A: Cloves are the dried, unopened, nail-shaped flower buds of the evergreen, Syzygium aromaticum. Cloves are usually reddish-brown in color and have a strong, flavor and aroma. While cloves are often used in dessert and meat recipes, they are also used in the making of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Most come from Indonesia, and can be bought whole or ground.

QSomeone once told me that he saw a star that turned red and green. Is that possible or was it a satellite?

A: It could have been Sirius, Capella or Arcturus. They are among the top five brightest stars in the sky. When they appear low to the horizon and are shining through a thicker layer of haze, they can sometimes appear to splinter into different colors. You can see Arcturus low on the northwest horizon around 10 p.m. Capella appears low in the northeast around the same time, while Sirius, brightest of all stars, emerges in the southeast around 3 a.m.

If you have a question for the Farmers’ Almanac write to Farmers’ Almanac, P.O. Box 1609, Lewiston, ME 04241 or e-mail: [email protected]


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