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30 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

Carve the turkey and pass the apple pie, these fun facts about Thanksgiving will get you in the mood for America’s favorite meal!

thanksgiving information

Thanksgiving is one of our favorites times of there year. There’s nothing quite like spending the day with family or friends eating all the delicious food and watching the parade or a football game on television.

But there is so much more to Thanksgiving than simply eating turkey and all the fixings. These fun facts about Thanksgiving are the perfect way to get in the mood to celebrate our favorite holiday.

Like for example, did you know the very first Thanksgiving had no turkey at all?The Pilgrims and Native Americans likely ate goose, duck, and swan. And they also partied for three days! That would be exhausting today!

thanksgiving facts
How much do you know about Thanksgiving?

And if you feel like a nap after the meal, don’t blame it on the tryptophan from the turkey. You can thank eating a massive meal for that sluggish feeling.

Did you know you can call Butterball, the turkey company, during the months of November and December and ask any questions about preparing turkeys? They field thousands of calls each year completely for free.

If you’re in the mood to learn some Thanksgiving facts to prepare for the holiday, then keep on reading.

And be sure to check out fact number 12 – it might just be our favorite one in this list!

thanksgiving fun facts
It’s time to dive into our Thanksgiving trivia!

30 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

1. We eat a LOT of turkeys

Each Thanksgiving, Americans eat about 45 million turkeys. Isn’t that mad? That’s so many turkeys!

2. Gobble, gobble (or not)

The gobble sound turkeys are famous for is how they got their nickname. However, only male turkeys make this sound.

Both male and female turkeys will cackle, purr, and yell when the situation calls for it.

what do people eat at thanksgiving
Americans eat about 45 million turkeys over Thanksgiving

3. Thanksgiving can get expensive

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can cost a lot of money. If you choose to host, you could be spending between $300 and $500, depending on how many people dine with you.

We had no idea Thanksgiving would cost so much – we told you these Thanksgiving facts would be surprising!

4. More than cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is a staple at Thanksgiving. However, these crisp, tart berries have many more uses than a topping for turkey.

Native Americans used cranberries to heal injuries and ailments, and to dye fabric. So cranberry sauce can be good for you too!

5. You don’t want to be a plumber

After all the cooking and eating, the pipes in your home have a big job. The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest day of the year for plumbers. Pretty grim when you think about it…

harvest festival
The first corn harvest was in October 1621

6. When was the first Thanksgiving?

The first Thanksgiving took place in October 1621. William Bradford, the governor of Massachusetts, organized the event to celebrate a successful corn harvest.

While the meal looked quite different than the feasts we serve today, the idea was the same. And, that first celebration lasted an entire three days! This fact about Thanksgiving makes us full!

7. You can call Butterball for questions

Cooking a turkey is hard, especially if you don’t cook it throughout the rest of the year. That’s why it’s natural to have a lot of questions on what the hell your doing during the holidays.

Thankful, Butterball opens up a turkey hotline in November and December to answer all your turkey questions. The line fields more than 100,000 questions each year.

8. Let it Go (to the movies)

When Frozen opened on Thanksgiving in 2013, it earned $127 million throughout the weekend. This huge haul made the Disney favorite the number one Thanksgiving release of all time.

Heading to the movies is a family favorite pastime on Thanksgiving weekend. Do you usually go to the movies with your family?

Yes, that post-meal nap is very much needed

9. That post-meal nap is real

Many people think the tryptophan from the turkey is what causes the slump after the meal. Turkey does have this amino acid that increases melatonin in your body, but it doesn’t have any more than chicken.

It turns out that eating a giant meal full of carbohydrates makes anyone super sleepy. Figures, tight?

10. Mary had a big Thanksgiving

Sarah Hale is known as the author of “Mary had a Little Lamb.” But a lesser-known fact about this lady is she is also the “Mother of Thanksgiving.” Originally, the holiday was only celebrated in the Northeast.

Mrs. Hale spent 40 years campaigning for a national day of thanks. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln finally instated the holiday nationwide. So we’ve also got to be thankful to Sarah Hale!

11. Presidential pardon

While there is a long tradition of presidents receiving gifts of turkeys for Thanksgiving, they were usually eaten.

Then, in 1947, the Poultry and Egg National Board and the National Turkey Federation sent Truman a turkey. Though this year, it was in protest of a “poultry-less Thursday” policy the president implemented.

The tradition continued until 1989. But, George H.W. Bush decided to pardon the gifted turkey. And the rest is history.

pardoning thanksgiving turkey
The turkey now receives a presidential pardon

12. Racoon day?

In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge was given a live raccoon. The rodent was intended to replace the turkey. However, the President and First Lady couldn’t bring themselves to eat the raccoon.

Instead, they adopted her, named her Rebecca, and turned her into a White House pet. This is definitely one of our favorite fun facts about Thanksgiving to tell the family!

13. The basis for TV Dinners

TV dinners are a staple in America. These easy meals are go-tos for many busy families. And we can thank Thanksgiving for this invention.

In 1953, Swanson miscalculated how many turkeys they would sell and ended up with an extra 260 tons of birds. A salesman, Gerry Thomas, came up with the idea of packaging the excess poultry in trays next to traditional sides. 

14. The first national Thanksgiving

President George Washington gave the “Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789,” which declared a national day of thanks to God for protecting Americans and helping them achieve independence.

george washington
George Washington came up with the idea for a Thanksgiving

15. People like Thanksgiving when it is

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move Thanksgiving up one week so it wouldn’t fall on November 30th. The idea was to allow families more time to shop before Christmas.

Americans were not happy. In fact, the mayor of Atlantic City said they would have two days of thanks. The first was known as “Franksgiving.”

16. It’s the perfect day for a run

Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays for a race. Check your local town to see if they are part of this fun fact about Thanksgiving.

Turkey Trots are a great way to get active and prepare for a day full of eating. More than one million people take part in almost 1,500 races in America each year. Do you usually go for a run around Thanksgiving?

17. Leftovers are king

Leftovers are better than the original meal. Everyone agrees with this one, right? There is something super delicious about warming up a plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Yum.

when was the first thanksgiving
We just love eating during the holiday

18. Turkey, like the country

During the Ottoman Empire, guinea fowl were widely popular. These birds arrived in Europe from North Africa through present-day Turkey. When  Europeans received the birds, they called them turkey-hens or turkey-cocks.

When Americans began sending what are actually turkeys back to Europe, they were confused by the resemblance and started calling them by the same name as the North African guinea fowl.

19. Canada has their own Thanksgiving

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving to honor the relationship between Pilgrims and Native Americans. Canadians celebrate something entirely different.

In the late 1800s, the Prince of Wales became incredibly sick. Half the world was filled with anxiety. When he recovered, the commonwealth celebrated. In Canada, the second Monday of October is Thanksgiving in honor of his healing.

20. Check Minnesota for a turkey

Turkeys naturally prefer colder climates, apparently. More turkeys come from Minnesota than any other state. With 450 farms in the state, Minnesota is responsible for 18% of all the domesticated turkeys in the United States.

facts about thanksgiving
Pumpkin pie is a big holiday tradition too

21. Don’t forget the pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pies are synonymous with Thanksgiving. So much so that an entire town delayed the holiday because of ingredient shortages.

Colchester, Connecticut pushed Thanksgiving back a week due to a molasses shortage.

22. Pass the red

About half of Americans serve red wine with their Thanksgiving dinner. Around 10% opt for white wine. Everyone else goes with beer, cocktails, champagne, or soft drinks.

23. Parade history

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the most popular events of the holiday season. People look forward to watching it all year. The parade started in the 1920s. 

However, there was originally no plan to deflate the balloons. So parade organizers simply let them float away. Most of them popped fairly quickly. Thankfully, they are no longer released that way.

macys thanksgiving parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade started in the 1920s

24. Giant balloons

Originally, there were no regulations regarding the size of the balloons. However, an incident in 1997 changed everything.

High winds caused a giant Barney balloon to rip up the middle. And the Pink Panther balloon couldn’t be contained. So police had to stab it to stabilize it. Finally, a giant Cat in the Hat got stuck on a lamppost and fell to the ground on bystanders.

Today, balloons can’t be more than 70 feet high, 78 feet long, and 40 feet wide.

25. Tune in to watch

If you can’t be one of the 3 million people in attendance at the parade, then set your television to watch it live. Around 44 million people tune in each year. 

It’s better to watch on TV, though. Many in-person spectators get to the route super early in the morning to grab a prime viewing spot.

26. Turkey or Bald Eagle

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey to the bald eagle. In a letter to his daughter, he complained the bald eagle had no moral character, unlike the more respectable turkey.

Though, there is no evidence he pushed for this delicious bird to be the national symbol.

apple pie
Apple pie is a big favorite too

27. We eat a lot of pies, too

The correct way to prepare a pumpkin pie is a hotly debated topic. But, it doesn’t change the fact this pie is a favorite each Thanksgiving. Americans eat more than 50 million pumpkin pies during the holiday.

However, apple pie is nationally the most popular variety in America. You can’t go wrong with either one!

28. A lot of people travel

Each year, around 55 million people fly during the Thanksgiving holiday making it one of the most heavily traveled times of the year. The most popular destinations are Orlando, Florida, Anaheim, California, and New York City.

29. Another type of bird

The first Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth featured a variety of birds, none of which were the turkey, though. Pilgrims and Native Americans enjoyed swan, duck, and goose along with venison, most likely.

There was also a good bit of seafood, including lobster, oysters, and even eel. This is an unsettling Thanksgiving fact.

facts about turkeys
We didn’t eat turkeys at the first Thanksgiving

30. Turkey and Lions go hand in hand

There are a few things you can count on watching on Thanksgiving. Namely, the Macy’s parade and football. And one team has played a game every Thanksgiving since 1934.

The Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears in 1934 in an attempt to attract more viewers. The Lions lost that game, and many since. But the tradition continues, and you can still watch them play on Thanksgiving to this day.

Who wants more fun facts?

fact books

If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!

  1. Interesting Facts for Curious Minds
  2. 1,144 Random, Interesting & Fun Facts You Need To Know
  3. The Intriguingly Interesting Book of 555 Fascinating Facts

And those are all our fun facts about Thanksgiving! It’s put us in the mood to celebrate with the family already!

If we’ve missed any Thanksgiving facts, let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to our list.

Share these fun facts now!

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