15 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving That Will Amaze You

The Fellowship of Penny Calling Penny
November 5, 2023
15 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving That Will Amaze You
15 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving That Will Amaze You

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In celebration of the holiday, we’re taking a short break from our usual finance content and sharing some neat facts about a uniquely American holiday – Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

Most people understand Thanksgiving to be in commemoration of the 1621 harvest meal that the colonial Pilgrims shared with the original natives of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

This isn’t quite the truth.

The true story of Thanksgiving is much more complicated (and violent) than Americans are led to believe. That being said, what Thanksgiving is today is different from its largely false origin story and its political roots.

Today, Thanksgiving is largely about family, food, and football.

All that being said, here are 15 interesting facts about past Thanksgivings that you can share at the dinner table. 

15 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

#1: The first Thanksgiving probably lasted about 3 days:

The very first Thanksgiving supposedly took place in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

After years of painful interaction with British settlers, the Wampanoag tribe hosted a three-day gala as an attempt to make peace with the new settlers. 

#2: Around 46 million turkeys are prepped for Thanksgiving each year:

That’s right, 46,000,000 turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving! That seems like a huge number, but there are about 329.5 million people in America, so 46 million works out to about one turkey for every seven people.

All that being said, though…

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#3: Turkey wasn’t served on the first Thanksgiving:

Yep, turkey, specifically, wasn’t served on the first Thanksgiving.

While there are records of “fowl” being eaten, turkeys weren’t plentiful in New England at that time.

So what did they eat at the first Thanksgiving? 

Waterfowl like ducks and geese, venison, fish, and shellfish were the meats on the menu.

Side dishes included different preparations of a variety of fruits and veggies – including corn and pumpkin! – and potatoes. 

#4: Thanksgiving Day got moved around… a lot:

Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday of November now, but that wasn’t always the case.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

This was an attempt to unite the country during the Civil War. 

After that, President Andrew declared in 1865 that Thanksgiving should be celebrated on the first Thursday of November.

After that, in 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant moved it to the third Thursday.

Finally, beloved President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday we know and love in 1939.

#5: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is known as Drinksgiving:

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, often referred to as “Drinksgiving”, has become known for its lively and sometimes excessive partying.

It’s a time when many people, particularly young adults returning home for the holiday, gather with friends at bars and other social venues to celebrate and have a few drinks before the Thanksgiving festivities.

#6: A Toast to Thanks:

A toast of gratitude before a Thanksgiving meal is a common tradition.

It’s a moment to express appreciation for the blessings in one’s life and to acknowledge the presence of family and friends gathered for the occasion.

#7: Ben Franklin considered turkeys to be morally superior to bald eagles:

In a letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin wrote that – “For my part, I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country… For the Truth, Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird.”

He lamented the bald eagle’s choice as America’s official bird due to its “poor moral character,” while a turkey is a “highly respectable bird.”

#8: Central Park Zoo animals were part of the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

Originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade”, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held started to get shoppers excited for the exciting shopping season.

The first parade was held in 1924 and included elephants, camels, bears, and monkeys.

These animals were borrowed from Central Park Zoo and were replaced with the oversized balloons we see today in 1927.

#9: Jingle Bell was composed as a Thanksgiving song:

Jingle Bells, written by James Lord Pierpont, was first published in 1857.

The song was initially written to be sung on Thanksgiving.

Now, we consider it a Christmas song, but if you listen carefully listen to the lyrics, you’ll notice there’s no mention of Christmas at all!

#10: Most Americans don’t like classic Thanksgiving foods:

According to the Harris Poll, 19% of Americans dislike turkey – the classic Thanksgiving dinner staple. (Most people eat it anyway in keeping with tradition.)

The most hated side dishes were green bean casserole (24%), pumpkin pie (21%), sweet potatoes or sweet potato casserole (22%), and cranberry sauce (29%).

#11: Leftovers are considered the best part about Thanksgiving:

In 2015, the Harris Poll found that 79% of Americans claim that the best thing about hosting Thanksgiving is having your fridge stuffed with leftovers.

So bring on those delicious leftover turkey sandwiches!

#12: Sarah Josepha Hale – Mother of Thanksgiving:

Sarah Josepha Hale, an influential American writer, editor, and advocate, played a significant role in popularizing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

She tirelessly campaigned for the establishment of Thanksgiving as an official holiday for nearly four decades.

In 1863, her efforts finally bore fruit when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday, thanks in large part to her persistent advocacy.

#13: The Detroit Lions always play the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day:

Many people spend Thanksgiving Day watching football, so have you ever noticed that the Detroit Lions always play the Dallas Cowboys?

The tradition has never been set in stone with a contract, but the teams have been playing on Thanksgiving for a long time. 

The Lions have been playing since 1934, and the Cowboys joined them in 1966.

The Lions have played every year except during World War II from 1939-1944.  

#14: There are about 200 cranberries in a can of cranberry sauce:

And the largest producer of Cranberry products, Ocean Spray, produces approximately 80 million cranberry sauce cans every year.

About 85% of their supply is sold out during Thanksgiving and Christmas alone!

#15: Football tradition:

The tradition of football games on Thanksgiving dates back to 1876 when Princeton and Yale played a football game on the holiday.

This practice later evolved, and in 1934, the Detroit Lions began playing on Thanksgiving.

The Dallas Cowboys joined in 1966, and football has become an integral part of the Thanksgiving Day experience for many Americans.

Conclusion

All in all, Thanksgiving is an exciting, complicated blend of myths and facts.

History and tradition aside, though, Thanksgiving is for spending time with the people you love.

We hope this Thanksgiving brings happiness and an abundance of blessings for you.

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FAQs

Thanksgiving is fascinating due to its rich history, blending myths with facts, and its evolution from a harvest feast to a holiday centred around family, gratitude, and iconic dishes.

Thanksgiving is renowned for commemorating the first harvest feast between English colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans in 1621. It’s celebrated with traditional foods like turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, symbolizing unity and gratitude.

For kids, Thanksgiving is a historic celebration dating back to the Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a harvest meal. It’s a time of delicious food, family gatherings, and expressing thanks for the blessings of the year.

Thanksgiving is primarily celebrated in the United States and Canada, where it holds cultural significance. Other countries may have similar harvest celebrations, but the concept is most pronounced in North America.

The first Thanksgiving, which occurred in 1621, wasn’t officially named as such at the time. It’s known as the event where English colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans came together to share a feast and give thanks for the harvest and mutual cooperation.

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