Thanksgiving Facts

15 Interesting Thanksgiving Facts That You Should Know

Thanksgiving is the best food holiday of the year!

Although we know the popular story of Pilgrims having a feast with the Native Americans, there’s much more to it than that.

From lesser known Thanksgiving origins, to Presidents who didn’t support it, and how much turkey we eat, here at The Fact Site we brought you the full story!

Thanksgiving started before Plymouth Rock.

Thanksgiving started before Plymouth Rock.

Most people are under the impression that the origins of Thanksgiving comes from friendly Native Americans joining the Pilgrims in a friendly feast in 1620.

In fact, many people dispute the real origins of Thanksgiving.

The National Parks Service says that in 1565, the Spanish founded a settlement called St. Augustine.

They celebrated by having a meal which they invited the native Seloy tribe to.

It is gathered that the Spanish had pork stew, garbonzo beans, sea biscuits, and red wine.

It’s possible that the Seloy tribe contributed turkey, venison, and maize.

Thomas Jefferson was against Thanksgiving.

Thomas Jefferson was against Thanksgiving.

It’s not that Thomas Jefferson had a vendetta against thankfulness, instead he saw the holiday as a blurred line.

You see, Thomas Jefferson was a firm believer in the separation of church and state, and supporting Thanksgiving meant state-sponsored religion.

In fact, he went so far as to say that he thought making Thanksgiving a National Holiday was “a ridiculous proposition.”

Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until Lincoln made it one after the tragedy of the Civil War.

The Pilgrims never called themselves Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims never called themselves Pilgrims.

The term “Pilgrim” was around until the 1880’s. At that time, Pilgrims called themselves separatists.

The word pilgrim literally means “a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.”

Meanwhile, a separatist is a group essentially a minority group who separate themselves from a larger belief system.

Thanksgiving is celebrated outside the U.S.

Thanksgiving is celebrated outside the U.S.

While Thanksgiving is typically thought of as an American holiday, it’s actually celebrated in a few other places as well.

America’s northern neighbor, Canada, celebrates Thanksgiving as well.

The main difference between the two holidays is the fact that Canada celebrates their Thanksgiving over a month earlier.

Since Canada’s winter sets in earlier than it does in the U.S., they celebrate the start of harvest; they celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.

Other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving are Grenada, which celebrates on October 25th, although the background is unrelated. Similarly, Liberia, Philippines, Saint Lucia, and the Netherlands celebrate a version of Thanksgiving.

Many of the Pilgrims who migrated to Plymouth Rock were from Leiden, Netherlands. They celebrate the hospitality that the Dutch Pilgrims received.

Days of thanksgiving meant not eating.

Days of thanksgiving meant not eating.

Thanksgiving holiday is mostly based on the Pilgrims of the Mayflower having a feast with friendly Native Indians at Plymouth Rock.

However, days of fasting and thanksgiving were common before that. Religious practice usually entailed fasting and praying as a way to give thanks.

This was what the settlers had initially planned on doing, was fasting for three days to celebrate their first harvest.

That changed when they were joined by the Wampanoah Indians who turned their fast into a three-day feast.

There’s a tradition of pardoning a turkey.

There’s a tradition of pardoning a turkey.

While Lincoln was president, a turkey was going to be killed for thanksgiving dinner.

His son was upset and begged Lincoln to let the turkey live.

Abraham Lincoln agreed, and this story started a tradition that has continued on.

Now, every Thanksgiving, one lucky turkey is selected to be “pardoned” by the president, which is then sent to a farm to live out its days.

Some of the turkeys get even better treatment than the others.

In 2005 and 2009, the pardoned turkeys were sent to Disneyland and Disney World to be the grand marshal in their Thanksgiving parades.

The official day of Thanksgiving moved around.

The official day of Thanksgiving moved around.

When Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday, it was on the last Thursday of each November as we celebrate it now.

However, in 1939, President Roosevelt moved it to the 3rd Thursday of November.

He thought that moving it up would allow for an extra week of shopping for the holiday season.

However, the citizens were not a fan of the change, so it was officially and legally changed back to the last Thursday of the month in 1942.

Some call it a “day of mourning.”

Some call it a “day of mourning.”

There’s a counter protest to Thanksgiving called the National Day of Mourning. Since 1970, the United Native Americans of New England (UAINE) organize a protest to bring recognition to the suffering of their peoples.

More specifically, it is recognition of the Pequot War in which colonists attacked and killed 700 Pequot Indians.

Any who were captured, hundreds of which were sold into slavery to the West Indies.

One of the leaders of UAINE has stated that they will only stop protesting when “the merchants of Plymouth are no longer making millions of dollars off the blood of our slaughtered ancestors.”

They have further reasoning behind this, but the idea is all the same: they are protesting the exploitation and oppression of their culture.

The “Mary Had a Little Lamb” author helped make Thanksgiving a holiday.

The “Mary Had a Little Lamb” author helped make Thanksgiving a holiday.

The famous children’s lullaby “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was written and edited by Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah wrote to the president in office for 17 years in order to sway the them to make it an official holiday.

As the founder of the American Ladies magazine, Sarah had been promoting women’s rights far before suffrage started.

She used this platform to publish articles and letters to persuade recognition of Thanksgiving.

Sarah believed that the holiday would help to unite the North and South states during tension and division.

One week after she sent one of her letters in 1863, Lincoln was the President to finally hear her out and he wrote a proclamation of Thanksgiving which officially made it a national holiday.

TV dinners were born from a Thanksgiving accident.

TV dinners were born from a Thanksgiving accident.

In 1953, an employee of Swanson accidentally made a mass order of Thanksgiving turkeys. To be exact, it was 260 tons!

In order to get rid of them all, a salesman drew from how airplane food is served, and thought of the idea to package a full meal on aluminum trays to be sold.

The idea was approved and 5,000 trays were willed with turkey, gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes.

They were sold for a whopping 98 cents and they were a hit!

Since then, TV dinners have become a normal staple of dinners for people on the go, in a rush, or on a budget.

All because one employee ordered too much turkey!

Not everyone chooses turkey as their main dish.

Not everyone chooses turkey as their main dish.

Of course turkey is a popular main dish for Thanksgiving, and in total, Americans consume 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving.

But out of all the states, Californians eat the most!

The average Thanksgiving turkey weighs 15 pounds making it the perfect bird to feed everyone.

And even though it is the main choice for Thanksgiving, overall only 88% of Americans choose turkey.

The rest of the population is ether vegetarian, vegan, or maybe they just chose ham instead!

Even so, enough people are a fan of this tasty bird, that 22 million families have turkey for their Christmas dinner as well.

The Original Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade didn’t have any balloons.

The Original Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade didn’t have any balloons.

As another staple of American Thanksgiving traditions, it’s hard to imagine this iconic parade without giant balloons floating down the street!

With the parade dating back to 1924, a lot about it has certainly changed and grown.

A puppeteer who moved to New York City to perform with his puppets was discovered by Macy’s hired him to create large animal shaped balloons.

The 1928 parade was the first to have massive balloons and it hasn’t stopped.

The first parade they were featured ended with the balloons being released into the sky where they ended up bursting.

The next year, they had safety valves that allowed them to float for a few days, and address labels sewn into them.

Anyone who found a grounded balloon and mailed it back would get a Macy’s gift card!

Pumpkin pie isn’t the pie of choice for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin pie isn’t the pie of choice for Thanksgiving.

Dessert is a big part of the Thanksgiving meal! Seeing as pumpkins are a big part of fall and harvest, you would think pumpkin pie would be a national favorite.

Surprisingly, 20% of Americans opt for apple pie over anything else, making it the favored pie choice!

In second place is strawberry at 19% just barely running up to apple pie.

Finally, we come to pumpkin. Pumpkin pie ranks in at 16% taking place of the third favorite Thanksgiving pie!

Even though it is third place, the numbers don’t lie – about 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten every Thanksgiving.

“Jingle Bells” was Supposed to be a Thanksgiving Song.

“Jingle Bells” was Supposed to be a Thanksgiving Song.

This is an odd fact, because we don’t really have any Thanksgiving songs these days!

Published way back in 1857, it was written by James Lord Pierpont to commemorate Thanksgiving.

The town where he composed the song, Medford, had very popular sleigh races, hence the “one horse open sleigh” portion of the lyrics.

What’s even crazier is that it was meant to be a drinking song. Medford also had a huge industry for rum-making.

Some of the song lyrics are associated with the intention that it’s something you sing while you’ve been drinking, and talking about an even that happened while you were drunk.

The next time Jingle Bells comes on, you’re sure to hear it from a different perspective!

The average person eats 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving dinner.

The average person eats 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving dinner.

We all know we eat too much at this long-awaited feast, but did you know exactly how much that comes out to?

4,500 calories is the same at eating 28 donuts, 16 slices of pizza, or 61 chicken wings.

Many people think that if they hit the gym for an extra two hours, it’ll even out.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case. It would take over 7 hours of running, or over 15 hours of quick walking to even out the tasty dinner.

On a brighter side, it is a special occasion so in our opinions, one mega cheat day per year isn’t the worst!