19 Interesting Thanksgiving Facts You’ll Want To Tell Everyone at Dinner
Everyone loves Thanksgiving. It’s a time to connect with family while stuffing yourself with turkey and watching football. But there is a lot more to the November holiday than food and football. It signifies a historic moment in time when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Native American people came together for a meal over 400 years ago. It marks the coming together of two different races and America’s first steps toward being a unified nation. The celebration of Thanksgiving and associated traditions have changed and evolved over the years, leading to some very interesting Thanksgiving facts and trivia.
Did you know there is no evidence turkey was actually eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner? Or that there is an area in Australia that celebrates the festivities? These interesting facts make great chit-chat while you are setting the table and waiting for dinner to cook. You can provide a bit of historical information or random facts about the holiday, while also getting everyone talking and laughing about the big day.
So if you’re looking to show off your knowledge about the holiday, read on and discover 19 interesting Thanksgiving facts and trivia tidbits everyone will want to hear.
19 Interesting Thanksgiving Facts You’ll Want To Tell Everyone at Dinner
1. There Is No Evidence of Turkey Being Eaten at the First Thanksgiving
What a Debbie Downer. It seems that turkey was never actually served during the first Thanksgiving between the Plymouth colony and the Wampanoag people. There is no record of the tasty bird being devoured, with the Pilgrims providing fowl and the Wampanoag people deer.
Although turkey was plentiful, most believe it was served for another festive occasion and then got adopted for Thanksgiving one year. It seems we’ve been living a lie all these years.
2. The Original Macy’s Day Parade Featured Zoo Animals
One tradition on Thanksgiving that will always occur is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Originally known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade, due to it ushering in the festive shopping season, the first parade featured all manner of zoo animals. Elephants, monkeys, bears, and camels were just some of the animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo to appear in the parade.
These days the floats focus on cartoon characters and superheroes, with large and colorful balloons of famous animated and comic book characters floating down the streets of New York City.
3. Colchester, Connecticut Once Cancelled Thanksgiving Due To a Lack of Pumpkin Pie
Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie is a travesty, but not many would cancel dinner because of this, right? Well, it seems the townspeople of Colchester, Connecticut felt different. in 1705 the Connecticut River froze over, meaning the usual supplies didn’t reach Colchester in time for Thanksgiving. Not wanting to celebrate without pumpkin pie, the town decided to postpone the holiday for a week.
By then the river was no longer frozen and all the ingredients for a proper Thanksgiving were delivered. All the families were able to have pumpkin pie alongside their turkey and mashed potato.
4. Benjamin Franklin Wanted the Turkey To Be America’s National Bird
As strange as it sounds, one of the country’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, wasn’t a fan of the bald eagle representing America. He wanted the turkey to be the national symbol. In a letter to his daughter he wrote, “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country… for the truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird.” Fair enough.
Thankfully Franklin didn’t get his way and the eagle was installed as the sign of the country. It represents the strength and freedom of America much better than a turkey would.
5. The Detroit Lions Have Played the Most Thanksgiving Day Games
The Detroit Lions once had a monopoly on Thanksgiving day. Back in 1934, former owner George A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth Ohio Spartans and moved them to Detriot. Looking to make an immediate impact (and cash in on Thanksgiving), he managed to secure a game against World Champion side the Chicago Bears.
The game proved a massive success and Thanksgiving day football was born. The only years the Lions haven’t featured on Thanksgiving were between 1939-1944 due to World War II. The Dallas Cowboys have also joined in on the tradition, with their first Thanksgiving game coming in 1966.
6. “Jingle Bells” Was Originally Written as a Thanksgiving Song
One of the all-time great Christmas songs was actually meant to celebrate Thanksgiving. Written by James Pierpoint in 1857, “One Horse Open Sleigh” was written for children to celebrate the holiday season. It quickly became associated with Christmas and was changed to “Jingle Bells,” where it has now become a Christmas staple.
7. Thomas Jefferson Cancelled Thanksgiving While President
Back in the day, Thanksgiving was held on a year-to-year basis depending on the President after being introduced by George Washington. It wasn’t a national holiday so whoever was in the Oval Office made the decision as to whether to hold the holiday. Thomas Jefferson, a god-fearing man, believed Thanksgiving was unconstitutional and refused to declare it a holiday.
It wasn’t until 1863, when the great man Abraham Lincoln, insisted Thanksgiving be an annual holiday that it was officially recognized as a public holiday for people to celebrate.
8. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Was Originally Called the Macy’s Christmas Parade
You can probably guess why Christmas was the first choice name. Macy’s believed using “Christmas” in the title would entice people to shop and spend more money in their stores. Macy’s eventually saw the error in their ways and named the parade after the day it occurs on.
9. Sarah Josepha Hale Was Named the “Mother of Thanksgiving”
If her name sounds familiar, it’s because Sarah Josepha Hale wrote the classic children’s tune “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The author and editor was nicknamed the “Mother of Thanksgiving,” a title she lived up to when she lobbied for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday.
Hale wrote letters to both President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward in 1863, asking for Thanksgiving to be an official holiday, as she believed it could help bring people together after the American Civil War had torn the country apart. Lincoln liked the idea and the rest is history.
10. There Are Three Towns in the United States Called Turkey
This piece of trivia isn’t going to add much to your Thanksgiving celebration but could come in handy during a quiz night. The three towns are Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Louisiana. There are also two townships in Pennsylvania that go by the names Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.
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11. Thanksgiving Leftovers Inspired the First-Ever TV Dinner
Next time you chow down on a TV dinner (which we hope isn’t very often), just remember that if it wasn’t for Thanksgiving you wouldn’t be able to fry your meal in the microwave. TV dinner company Swanson got their numbers mixed up when ordering turkey for Thanksgiving in 1953. They over-ordered by 260 pounds and had no idea what to do with the excess turkey.
So they reached out to company salesman Gerry Thomas who came up with the idea of using aluminum trays to store the turkey in and sell as a dinner you could heat up at home. His idea was a huge success and all 5,000 trays sold, sparking the idea for the microwavable TV dinner. Good job Gerry.
12. Nobody Knows When the Presidential Turkey Pardon Comes From
Every year on Thanksgiving, the President of the United States of America pardons a bird to kick off the celebrations. But nobody is quite sure when this Thanksgiving tradition started. Some believe President Lincoln was the first to pardon a turkey after his son Tad persuaded him not to kill the bird they had purchased for Thanksgiving dinner. Others believe it was Harry Truman who started the addition in 1947.
A couple more interesting facts about this tradition are that President Ronald Reagan was the first to use the word “pardon” when allowing a turkey to live and George H. W. Bush was the first President to officially grant a turkey a presidential pardon.
13. Franklin Roosevelt Changed the Date of Thanksgiving
What is it with Presidents and Thanksgiving? After the shenanigans of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt got in on the act by changing the date of the holiday. Instead of Thanksgiving being on the last Thursday of November, he changed it to the second last Thursday.
Roosevelt thought the change of date would boost the economy and give people more time to shop for Christmas, but all it did was confuse people. According to The Wall Street Journal, Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas celebrated Thanksgiving both weeks while the majority of the country had Thanksgiving on its original date. After two years the idea was thrown out the window and the last Thursday of every November was reinstated as the official day of Thanksgiving.
14. Butterball Provides a Turkey Talk Line
If you are struggling with cooking your turkey or just want a few pointers, Butterball, who are known for their turkeys, are here to help. Since 1981 the company has operated a turkey talk line where people can ring in and ask for advice on cooking their bird. Open to U.S. and Canadian residents every November and December, you can call up and ask questions and get all the info you need about cooking a juicy turkey.
If phone calls aren’t your thing, you can also text and email. There are even Spanish-speaking operators for those who don’t speak great English. Butterball receives over 100,00 calls a year.
15. Minnesota Produces the Most Turkeys in America
If you ever need a last-minute turkey, Minnesota is the place to go. The “Bread and Butter State” produces around 44.5 million birds per year, which is just incredible. It’s a billion-dollar industry that would struggle if Thanksgiving was ever canceled.
16. Black Friday Is the Busiest Day of the Year for Plumbers
While most people are fighting it out over sale items on Black Friday, plumbers are fixing clogged drains on what is their busiest day of the year. The reason is that most people overindulge on Thanksgiving day and their toilet pays the price the following day. Calls for plumbers rise by more than 50%, with plumbing company Roto-Rooter calling the day “Brown Friday.”
17. Australia Celebrates Thanksgiving
That’s right, the country of deadly animals, golden beaches, and XXXX celebrates Thanksgiving. Well, at least one part of the nation does. Located in the South Pacific Ocean between Oz and New Zealand, Norfolk Island was once used by American whaling ships as a place to stop off during their journey.
As many American sailors spent Thanksgiving there, the annual tradition has continued to this very day, with the 2,000-odd residents eating a mixture of classic Thanksgiving food and modern Norfolk Island cuisine, which means a lot of dishes using bananas.
18. The First Thanksgiving Feast Went on for Three Days
They didn’t mess about in the 1600s. When the Pilgrims offered to break bread with the Native Americans, they went all out to celebrate the peaceful occasion. The harvest was so successful that there was an abundance of food. Throw in what the Wampanoag tribe brought with them and there was enough food to last three days.
19. A Raccoon Was Pardoned One Thanksgiving
It’s just not turkeys who have escaped death on Thanksgiving. In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge was given a raccoon to kill and eat for Thanksgiving. While an unusual gift, raccoon was considered a delicacy in Mississippi during that time. Thankfully for the raccoon, Coolidge couldn’t bring himself to eat the creature so he pardoned it.
The raccoon became part of the Coolidge family and joined the assortment of pets they owned, which included dogs, cats, birds, a wallaby, a pigmy hippo, a baby bear, and a pair of lion cubs.