10 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

As discussed in Episode 17 of the Wise Eats Podcast:

Thanksgiving Fun Facts

Happy Turkey Day, wise guys and gals, and welcome to a special GOBBLE GOBBLE edition of Wise Eats. Thanksgiving has always been a very special time for me to share with my close family and friends, and America agrees. Thanksgiving ranks as the #2 holiday in America behind Christmas (#1) and ahead of Halloween (#3). A couple other interesting notes:

  • 96% of Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year.
  • Americans are going to spend an estimated $552 million dollars on turkey this Thanksgiving!

This is always a special time of year where we get to celebrate with friends and family and be thankful for all the great gifts we have in our lives. What better way to honor Thanksgiving than by sharing some interesting tidbits about the holiday. I’ll put links to all of my sources for these over at Wise-Eats.com/Episode17

  • The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 and lasted for 3 days, and it’s unknown whether Turkey was on the menu. Instead, venison, duck, goose, lobster, and other items were served. There wasn’t even any pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce!
  • It’s a much different story today, as 88% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and 9% of eat their Thanksgiving meal at a restaurant. Here’s the ranking of America’s favorite dishes ranked, in order:
  • Turkey 39%
  • Stuffing 23%
  • Pumpkin Pie 12%
  • Mashed Potatoes 9%
  • Sweet Potatoes 6%
  • Cranberry Sauce 3%

It is estimated that 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten on Thanksgiving. According to the American Pie Council, most American prefer Apple pie over pumpkin pie.

  • There’s a long history of presidential influence with Thanksgiving. George Washington was the first to declare Thanksgiving a holiday, but it was on a year-to-year basis, so presidents had to re-declare it every year, which did not sit well with president Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson refused to declare Thanksgiving a holiday because he believed in the separation of church and state, and since Thanksgiving involved prayer and reflection, he thought making it a national holiday would violate the first amendment.
Apparently, Thomas Jefferson didn’t care for the idea of Thanksgiving
  • That was all changed on October 3, 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Abraham Lincoln declares Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863
  • In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt tried to screw everything up by changing the date of Thanksgiving, which caused a whole bunch of problems, and the decision was eventually overturned.
  • Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving, but they do it on the second Monday of October. In America, Thanksgiving commemorates a feast between the pilgrims and the Native Americans, whereas Canadian Thanksgiving celebrates the meal of English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew after they successfully sailed from England to Canada in 1578.
  • If you’re an animal lover like me, you’ll enjoy this next tidbit, because the White House has a tradition of sparing the life of one lucky turkey each year. While the origins of this ritual are still debated, the tradition was finalized by George H.W. Bush in 1989.  
  • Unfortunately, that one turkey is just a drop in the bucket, because about 46 million Turkeys will be cooked this Thanksgiving, and then another 22 million on Christmas. That’s a lot of turkeys that won’t be gobbling this year! And speaking of that, only male turkeys actually make a gobble sound. Female turkeys cackle instead.
  • For those of us, including myself, who love watching football on Turkey day, the first Thanksgiving pro football game took place in 1876, and the first Thanksgiving NFL games were played in 1920.
  • Only two NFL teams play on Thanksgiving every year: The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions have played on every Thanksgiving since 1934 except for when the team was called away to serve during World War II. The Dallas Cowboys also play on every Thanksgiving, a tradition that started in 1966. I’m a faithful Lions fan, being from Detroit, although the team hasn’t given us much to cheer for in our lifetime. Hopefully, they’ll turn it around some day.
  • Roto-Rooter reports that Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers.
  • Lastly, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is that Christmas is right around the corner, and I have a confession to make: I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC. It’s always so upbeat, positive, fun, romantic, what’s not to like about it? I used to always find it kind of annoying, but it’s grown on me over the years, thanks to my wife, so we play it on the radio all season long. And wouldn’t you know it, the Christmas classic “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving Day song entitled “One Horse Open Sleigh”. The song became so popular around Christmas time that it was changed to Jingle Bells in 1859.

Articles Referenced:

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