Other than Christmas, Thanksgiving is the most celebrated holiday in the United States. Families and friends gather, sometimes from far away, to share thanks and a delicious meal together. It also marks the beginning of the Holiday season. Although it is widely celebrated in the United States, not many people know the origin of the holiday or how it has transformed over the years so we have compiled a list of the top ten most interesting facts about Thanksgiving.
There are three towns named Turkey in the United States
In the states of Texas, North Carolina, and Louisiana there are cities named Turkey. All of the cities named Turkey are very small with populations all below 500 residents. According to some historians the name Turkey came from the explorer Christopher Columbus who had originally thought he was in India when he arrived in North America. When he first saw a turkey he called it a “tuka” which is the Indian term for a peacock.
There is a debate over which President first pardoned a turkey
The tradition of pardoning a turkey every Thanksgiving started in 1947 when Harry Truman felt sympathy for one lucky bird. Some historians, however, argue that the tradition actually had started in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln granted a pardon to a pet turkey that belonged to his son.
The first Thanksgiving lasted for 3 days
Many historians acknowledge that the first Thanksgiving took at the 1621 celebration of Plymouth in the present-day state of Massachusetts. The Plymouth thanksgiving and feast was prompted by an unusually bountiful harvest. As a result the first thanksgiving actually spanned over 3 days where people gathered and gave thanks through prayer for their successful harvest.
Americans feast on nearly 125 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving
Based on statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture there are more than 45 million turkeys cooked and eaten on Thanksgiving ever year. That is more than 15% of all the turkeys sold in the United States on a yearly basis. In 2011 the average live weight per bird was about 28 pounds in contrast to the average live weight per bird of about 16.5 pounds in 1970.
FDR attempted to change the date of Thanksgiving
In an attempt to boost the economy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the traditional date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the second to last Thursday in November in 1939, 1940, and 1941 in hopes of extending the Christmas shopping season. As a result, about half the nation ended up going along with the President’s suggestion and the other half decided to stick with tradition of celebrating it on the last Thursday in November. Interestingly enough, Texas decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on both days. After a few years of chaos, congress met and set the official date of Thanksgiving as being the fourth Thursday in November, which sometimes is the last Thursday in November and sometimes is the second to last Thursday in November as it is this year in 2012.
Thanksgiving was once celebrated in London, England
During World War II in 1942, London’s Westminster Abbey held Thanksgiving services for the U.S. troops stationed in England at the time. Over 3500 troops filled the church’s pews to sing patriotic songs and also marked the first time in the building’s 900 year history a foreign army was invited to take over the grounds. Considering the holiday’s origins as a festival for pilgrims who fled from the religious tyranny in Elgland, it was a pretty big gesture of thanks.
Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States
Benjamin Franklin suggested that the national bird of the United Stats be the wild turkey. He felt that the bald eagle was a bird of bad moral character and does not live with honor. On the other hand he acknowledges that turkeys can be seen as vain and silly, but nonetheless, suggests that turkeys are a bird of courage and do not back down from attack.
Thanksgiving was actually meant to be a fast
Ironically enough, Thanksgiving was originally supposed to be a fast where people gathered to give thanks, pray, and abstain from eating food. When the Native Americans joined the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving they brought food, feasted, danced, celebrated, and played games together. At the first Thanksgiving various types of fowl, flint corn, cod, bass, and other types of fish were served.
The Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving
When most people think of Thanksgiving they think of two things: food and football. Starting in 1934 the Detroit Lions have played every Thanksgiving since.
A spooked turkey can burst into flight approaching speeds between 50-55 mph in a matter of seconds
Most people don’t realize that turkeys can fly. In fact most turkeys actually sleep in trees during the night to stay out of the way of potential predators. Turkeys can sustain flight for distances up to a quarter mile, however, they do typically stay pretty close to the ground.
As a bonus, here are some inspiring and funny Thanksgiving quotes:
“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck
“I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” – E. P. Powell
“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.” – Victor Hugo
“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” – Edward Sandford Martin