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Thanksgiving Day Facts: Americans Eat More Food On Thanksgiving Than On Any Other Day Of The Year

Updated on November 27, 2015

What is Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving Day or simply Thanksgiving is one of the most important public holidays celebrated in the United States and Canada. The holiday is celebrated once every year on the fourth Thursday in November. But in Canada it is celebrated on the second Monday of October.

Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is all about being thankful for the important things people have in life such as food, good health, life, friends, families, etc. This day is characterized by families and friends coming together and having a large meal or dinner and just celebrating the good things they have in their lives.

Thanksgiving food

The Thanksgiving dinners or meals traditionally feature turkey. Almost all households in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving by serving baked or roasted turkey at the Thanksgiving feast table with the exception of vegetarian families of course. You simply cannot have a Thanksgiving dinner in the United States without a baked or roasted turkey. Because of the central role turkey plays during the celebration of Thanksgiving, the day is also known as “Turkey Day”.

Besides turkey, several other foods are traditionally served at Thanksgiving dinners. The most common of these foods include: pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, etc.

Former US President George W. Bush celebrating Thanksgiving with American soldiers in Iraq in November 2003.
Former US President George W. Bush celebrating Thanksgiving with American soldiers in Iraq in November 2003.

Interesting facts about Thanksgiving

  • In the United States Thanksgiving started as far back as in 1621 during a celebration organized by pilgrims and Native Americans at a plantation in Plymouth (presently known as Massachusetts) called the Plymouth Plantation. The celebration, which was a three-day event, was organized because the pilgrims had had a very successful harvest that year.
  • Even though Thanksgiving had been celebrated from time to time in America, it was never celebrated nationwide until November 26, 1789 when President George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide celebration of Thanksgiving. In his proclamation on October 3, 1789, he said November 26, 1789 was to be marked as a “day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”
  • After George Washington's first proclamation of Thanksgiving Day in 1789 and the first nationwide celebration of Thanksgiving that same year, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated nationwide in 1795, 1798, 1799, and in 1814.
  • Even though the first nationwide Thanksgiving Day was created in 1789, it wasn’t observed annually all over the United States until in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day. In his proclamation, President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an annual public holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday of every November. Since then, Americans observe the Thanksgiving holiday once every year on the last Thursday in November.
  • In declaring Thanksgiving as an annual holiday and celebration, President Abraham Lincoln entreated Americans everywhere to observe the day as a day of giving thanks and praises to God for all He had done for them.
  • Since 1863, Thanksgiving Day was traditionally celebrated all over the United States on the last Thursday of November until 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to change the date since November of 1939 had five Thursdays instead of the traditional four. President Roosevelt therefore changed Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday of November. Roosevelt’s opponents and critics condemned the change saying it was disrespectful to the memory of Abraham Lincoln. And even though the change eventually became law, not too many Americans observed Roosevelt’s change. Many Americans kept on observing Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday of November.
  • In 1940 and 1941, Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving Day be celebrated on the third Thursday of November since November had four Thursdays during these years. Many Americans once again disregarded the change and went on celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
  • Since 1947, before every Thanksgiving, one lucky turkey gets to meet the president of the United States for pardoning during a ceremony known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. During this ceremony, the National Turkey Federation will present the President of the United States with a live turkey. The US President then grants the turkey a presidential ‘pardon’ thereby saving the turkey from being eaten during Thanksgiving. The pardoned turkey is then sent to a farmland where it is allowed to live freely for the rest of its life. Sadly, most of these pardoned turkeys don’t end up living to see another Thanksgiving mainly because of the unhealthy way they are bred.
  • The first US President to officially grant a turkey a presidential ‘pardon’ was President Ronald Reagan in 1987.
  • Since President George H. W. Bush became president of the United States in 1989, he made the presidential pardoning of a turkey a traditional event which has been done by every US President every year before Thanksgiving.
  • Between 2009 and 2013, all the presidentially pardoned turkeys were sent to Disneyland and Walt Disney World where they lived in freedom for the rest of their lives.
  • Because of the extremely large meals eaten by people all across the United States on Thanksgiving, reports have shown that more food is eaten in America on Thanksgiving Day than on any other day in the year. This means that the average American eats more food on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.
  • The annual Thanksgiving holiday haas been confirmed to be one of the busiest travel times in the United States considering the fact that it’s a public holiday and many people travel to their hometowns to reunite with their families and friends.
  • As a result of the heavy meals people eat during Thanksgiving, there is a tendency for many to fall deeply asleep after eating. The state of falling into a deep slumber after eating a heavy Thanksgiving meal is colloquially called "Thanksgiving food coma".
  • According to the National Turkey Federation, almost 90 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Over 40 million turkeys are slaughtered and eaten in the United States during Thanksgiving.
  • Every Thanksgiving Day many animal rights activists protest against the killing of millions of turkeys during Thanksgiving calling the celebration one of America’s most barbaric traditions. For example, in 2013, famous singer and campaigner for animal rights, Morrissey attacked President Obama and America's Thanksgiving tradition calling it "Thankskilling".

  • Since Thanksgiving is a public holiday, all government offices in the United States close and all the workers in these office are paid even though they don’t work on that day. Simply put, Thanksgiving Day is a paid holiday for every government employee in the United States.
  • Thanksgiving always falls between November 22 and 28. It can never fall on a date outside these dates.

President Barack Obama giving a presidential pardon to a lucky turkey before Thanksgiving. This turkey will be saved from being slaughtered and eaten during Thanksgiving.
President Barack Obama giving a presidential pardon to a lucky turkey before Thanksgiving. This turkey will be saved from being slaughtered and eaten during Thanksgiving.


Readers should note that Thanksgiving Day isn't celebrated only in the United States or Canada. In several parts of the world, Thanksgiving is observed. Some countries that observe Thanksgiving include: Grenada, Liberia, The Netherlands, Philippines, Saint Lucia, United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. All these countries have different dates when they celebrate Thanksgiving. Majority of these Thanksgiving celebrations have a religious component to them.

Is Thanksgiving Day observed in your country?

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