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9 things you might not know about Thanksgiving

Have you ever wondered what’s behind Thanksgiving? Here are nine facts to twinkle your turkey:

1. Thanksgiving was initially meant to be a fast, not a feast

The devout settlers at Plymouth Rock recognized “giving of thanks” in the form of prayer and abstaining from food. But the Wampanoag Indians, who joined the pilgrims for their three-day celebration, contributed their own harvest traditions — dancing, games, and feasting — from their ancient festival, Nickommoh, meaning “to give away” or “exchange.”

2. No turkey on the menu at the first Thanksgiving, though

Historians say that no turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving. What was on the menu? Most likely the settlers feasted on venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel, and fish. They probably ate pumpkins, but no pumpkin pies. (That probably means no whipped cream for the pie either.)

3. Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until over 200 years later

After writing letters for 17 years, Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who actually wrote the classic song “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” convinced President Lincoln in 1863 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

4. The national bird of the United States was almost a turkey

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird. An eagle, he wrote in a letter to his daughter, had “bad moral character.” A turkey was a “much more respectable bird.”

5. Spare that turkey

Each year, the president of the United States pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. The first turkey-pardoning ceremony started with President Truman in 1947.

6. Don’t mess with that date

President Abraham Lincoln said Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November, but in 1939 President Roosevelt moved it up a week hoping it would help the shopping season during the Depression era. The move caused quite an uproar, and it was changed back two years later.

7. Thanksgiving is responsible for TV dinners

Back in 1953, Swanson was faced with a massive turkey surplus (260 tons), so they decided to take advantage of new technology in freezing and packaging, and created what has gone down in history as the first mass-market TV dinner.

8. America’s favorite game on America’s favorite day

There’s nothing more American than watching football on Thanksgiving Day. The tradition started in 1934 when the new owner of the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans moved the team to Detroit and decided to compete against the Detroit Tigers for their fan base. The Detroit Lions scheduled a game against the defending world champions the Chicago Bears, and the game was such a huge success that they decided to do a game on Thanksgiving every year.

And for the last statistical madness:

Statistic Brain has an interesting list of Thanksgiving statistics. Just a few:

9. Total number of turkeys consumed on Thanksgiving Day


Annual consumption of turkey by the average American – 16 pounds

Total value of turkeys produced in the U.S. annually – $4,850,000,000.00

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