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Fun and interesting Thanksgiving facts and trivia

Updated on November 13, 2014

The first Thanksgiving and its origin.

The Pilgrim’s thanksgiving feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 1. It lasted three days and included 50 surviving pilgrims and approximately 90 Wampanoag Indians, including Chief Massasoit.

Mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, popcorn, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberries were not foods present on the first Thanksgiving's feast table.

Their menu differed from modern Thanksgiving dinners and included berries, shellfish, boiled pumpkin, deer, lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese.

Now a Thanksgiving dinner staple, cranberries were actually used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds and to dye clothes.

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), who tirelessly worked to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, also was the first person to advocate women as teachers in public schools, the first to advocate day nurseries to assist working mothers, and the first to propose public playgrounds. She was also the author of two dozen books and hundreds of poems, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb." She was considered the mother of Thanksgiving.

The pilgrims most likely would not have survived without the help of Tisquantum, or Squanto (c. 1580-1622). Squanto knew English and had already been back and forth across the ocean to England three times (most often as a captured slave).

Thanksgiving can occur as early as November 22 and as late as November
28.

Norbert Schnitzler, CC SA 3.0, wikimedia commons.
Norbert Schnitzler, CC SA 3.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

Presidential influences

President Jefferson called a federal Thanksgiving proclamation “the most
ridiculous idea ever conceived"

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States. An eagle, he wrote in a letter to his daughter, had "bad moral character." A turkey, on
the other hand, was a "much more respectable bird."

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the next-to-last Thursday in November to prolong the holiday shopping season, many Republicans rebelled. The holiday was temporarily celebrated on different dates: November 30 became the “Republican Thanksgiving” and November 23 was “Franksgiving” or “Democrat Thanksgiving.”

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He "pardons" it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.

In 2007, George W. Bush granted a pardon to two turkeys named May and Flower. The tradition of pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys began in 1947, though Abraham Lincoln is said to have informally started the practice when he pardoned his son’s pet turkey.

Malcolm, CC BY SA 2.0, wikimedia commons.
Malcolm, CC BY SA 2.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

See results

Let's talk turkey!

The turkeys typically depicted in Thanksgiving pictures are not the same as the domestic turkeys most people eat at Thanksgiving. Domestic turkeys usually weigh twice as much and are too large to fly.

Americans eat roughly 535 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving.

Each year, the average American eats somewhere between 16 - 18 pounds of
turkey.

Californians are the largest consumers of turkey in the United States.

The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.

The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.

It takes 75-80 pounds of feed to raise a 30 pound tom turkey.

Turkey has more protein than chicken or beef.

Male turkeys gobble. Hens do not. They make a clucking noise.

Turkeys have poor night vision.

A 16-week-old turkey is called a fryer. A five to seven month old turkey is called a young roaster.

Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks. (Maybe we should call people turkeys instead of chickens when they scare easily!)

TV dinners have Thanksgiving to thank. In 1953, someone at Swanson misjudged the number of frozen turkeys it would sell that Thanksgiving -- by 26 TONS! Some industrious soul came up with a brilliant plan: Why not slice up the meat and repackage with some trimmings on the side? Thus, the first TV dinner was born!

Everything's better with bacon!!! Dennis Crowley, CC BY 2.0, wikimedia commons.
Everything's better with bacon!!! Dennis Crowley, CC BY 2.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

Celebrations!

Although, Thanksgiving is widely considered an American holiday, it is also celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada.

The people of the Virgin Islands, a United States territory in the Caribbean Sea, celebrate two thanksgivings, the national holiday and Hurricane Thanksgiving Day. Every Oct 19, if there have been no hurricanes, Hurricane Day is held and the islanders give thanks that they have been spared.

In 1920, Gimbels department store in Philadelphia held a parade with about 50 people and Santa Claus bringing up the rear. The parade is now known as the 6abc IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade and is the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day parade.

Established in 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ties for second as the oldest Thanksgiving parade. The Snoopy balloon has appeared in the parade more often than any other character. More than 44 million people watch the parade on TV each year and 3 million attend in person.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday largely because stores hope the busy shopping day will take them out of the red and into positive profits. Black Friday has been a tradition since the 1930s.

Jon Harder, CC SA 3.0, wikimedia commons.
Jon Harder, CC SA 3.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

Laughs for kids (and adults).

Q: Who is not hungry at Thanksgiving?
A: The turkey because he's already stuffed!

Q: What sound does a turkey's phone make?
A: Wing! Wing!

Q: In what country is Thanksgiving ironically not celebrated?
A: Turkey.

Q: What did the turkey say to the turkey hunter?
A: "Quack! Quack! Quack!"

Q: What do you get when you cross a turkey with an octopus?
A: Enough drumsticks for Thanksgiving.

Q: How can you make a turkey float?
A: You need 2 scoops of ice cream, some root beer, and a turkey.

Q: What kind of cars would pilgrims drive today?
A: Plymouth.

Q: Why did the Pilgrims eat turkey at Thanksgiving?
A: Because they couldn't get the moose in the oven!

Q: If April shower bring May flowers, what do Mayflowers bring?
A: Pilgrims


Emanuele Spies, CC BY 2.0, wikimedia commons.
Emanuele Spies, CC BY 2.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

An industrious turkey farmer was always experimenting with breeding to perfect a better turkey.
His family was fond of the leg portion for dinner and there were never enough legs for everyone. After many frustrating attempts, the farmer was relating the results of his efforts to his friends at the general store get together. "Well I finally did it! I bred a turkey that has 6 legs!"
They all asked the farmer how it tasted.
"I don’t know" said the farmer. "I never could catch the darn thing!"

The average mother takes two whole days to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner but most kids don't really care. I have taken an informal but exhaustive poll of kids and have come to the conclusion that if Twinkies came with drumsticks, all turkeys would die of old age.

Autumn is a season for big decisions -- like whether or not it's too late to start spring cleaning.

Today’s lawn & garden tip: If you haven’t found the hedge trimmer yet, forget it. It’s almost time now to lose the leaf rake.

At Thanksgiving with her folks, single Sally prayed the following, "Oh Dear Lord, I'm thankful for all the blessing in my life. And, I'm not asking for this for myself. But please send my mother a son-in-law."

Billy: I can't wait to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving. My cousin's going to be there, and he has three feet!
Willie: Wow! How'd that happen?
Billy: I don't know. My aunt wrote my parents and said, "You won't recognize little Howie. He's grown another foot."

An elderly man in Phoenix
calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have
to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is
enough."
"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old man
says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so
you call your sister in Chicago and tell her," and he hangs up.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like hell
they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this."
She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at the old man, "You are NOT
getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my
brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing,
DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone, too, and turns to his wife. "Okay,"
he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving. Now what do we tell them for
Christmas?"

Grandma: What would you like for dessert, Joey?
Joey: Pumpkin pie! Grandma: Pumpkin pie, what, dear? Say the magic word. Joey: I'm sorry, Grandma. Pumpkin pie, abracadabra!

Nukkus, CC BY 3.0, wikimedia commons.
Nukkus, CC BY 3.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, spent with family and friends! Remember why we celebrate and be thankful. Yes, the food is delicious and it's great to have time off work and school, but don't forget why you're REALLY thankful. Tell your family and friends what they mean to you. Have a great holiday.

Billy Hathorn, CC BY 3.0, wikimedia commons.
Billy Hathorn, CC BY 3.0, wikimedia commons. | Source

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