1.) One of the most popular first Thanksgiving stories recalls the three-day celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. Over 200 years later, Abraham Lincoln issued a ‘Thanksgiving Proclamation’ on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.
2.) Thanksgiving can occur as early as November 22 and as late as November 28.
3.) 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. Their menu differed from modern Thanksgiving dinners and included berries, shellfish, boiled pumpkin, and deer.
4.) The famous pilgrim celebration at Plymouth Colony Massachusetts in 1621 is traditionally regarded as the first American Thanksgiving. However, there are actually 12 claims to where the “first” Thanksgiving took place: two in Texas, two in Florida, one in Maine, two in Virginia, and five in Massachusetts.
5.) The famous “Pilgrim and Indian” story featured in modern Thanksgiving narratives was not initially part of early Thanksgiving stories, largely due to tensions between Indians and colonists.
6.) The turkeys typically depicted in Thanksgiving pictures are not the same as the domestic turkeys most people eat at Thanksgiving.
7.) The first Thanksgiving was eaten with spoons and knives — but no forks! Forks weren’t even introduced to the Pilgrims until 10 years later and weren’t a popular utensil until the 18th century.
8.) 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.”
9.) Considered the “Mother of Thanksgiving,” Sara Hale (1788-1879) was an influential editor and writer who urged President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving. She selected the last Thursday in November because, as she said, harvests were done, elections were over, and summer travelers were home. She also believed a national thanksgiving holiday would unite Americans in the midst of dramatic social and industrial change and “awaken in Americans’ hearts the love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren.”
10.) Americans eat roughly 535 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving.
11.) In a survey conducted by the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans said they eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
12.) Now a Thanksgiving dinner staple, cranberries were actually used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds and to dye clothes.
13.) 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.
14.) 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.”
15.) Not all states were eager to adopt Thanksgiving because some thought the national government was exercising too much power in declaring a national holiday. Additionally, southern states were hesitant to observe what was largely a New England practice.
16.) 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).
17.) Thanksgiving football games began with Yale versus Princeton in 1876.
18.) The NFL started the Thanksgiving Classic games in 1920 and since then the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted games on Turkey Day. In 2006, a third game was added with different teams hosting.
19.) 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.
20.) 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.
21.) In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Thanksgiving stamp to honor the tradition “of being thankful for the abundance of goods we enjoy in America.”
22.) 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.
23.) Thanksgiving is often considered the site of the first cultural war because it contains both a narrative of the birth of freedom and democracy as well as an account of racism, mistreatment of Native Americans, and conflict.
24.) In 1953, Swanson had so much extra “Thanksgiving” turkey (260 tons) that a salesman told them they should package it onto aluminum trays with other sides like sweet potatoes — and the first TV dinner was born!
25.) The early settlers gave thanks by praying and abstaining from food, which is what they planned on doing to celebrate their first harvest, that is, until the Wampanoag Indians joined them and (lucky for us!) turned their fast into a three-day feast!
26.) Each year, the president of the U.S pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. President Obama pardoned a 45-pound turkey named Courage, who has flown to Disneyland and served as Grand Marshal of the park’s Thanksgiving Day parade!
27.) There are four places in the U.S. named Turkey. Louisiana’s Turkey Creek is the most populous, with a whopping 440 residents. There’s also Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Arizona. Oh, let’s not forget the two townships in Pennsylvania: the creatively named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot!
28.) Although, Thanksgiving is widely considered an American holiday, it is also celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada.
29.) Tony Sarg, a children’s book illustrator and puppeteer, designed the first giant hot air balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927. He later created the elaborate mechanically animated window displays that grace the façade of the New York store from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
30.) Turducken, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, is becoming more popular in Thanksgiving (originated in Louisiana). A turducken is a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. The cavity of the chicken and the rest of the gaps are filled with, at the very least, a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture (although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird).