Happy Thanksgiving from Penny Calling Penny! 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 11 interesting facts about past Thanksgivings that you can share at the dinner table.
#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…
#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 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.
#6: 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!
#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!
The best facts about Thanksgiving
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.
We’ll be back to our finance-focused content soon! For articles about managing your money and building a brighter financial future, subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll get our best articles delivered right to your inbox. Happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you there!