Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, good food... and did you know, some pretty interesting trivia? This holiday has a long and storied history, full of fascinating facts that you may not know. So while you're gearing up for turkey day this year, why not brush up on your knowledge with these 14 interesting Thanksgiving facts
1. The first ever Thanksgiving wasn't even in America!
Believe it or not, the original Thanksgiving took place in present-day Canada, at a site known as L'Anse aux Meadows. The holiday commemorates the successful conclusion of a three-year expedition to establish a permanent European settlement in North America. Led by Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the expedition began in 1524 and reached present-day Newfoundland after two years of difficult sailing. After spending a winter in Newfoundland, the expedition continued southward along the coast of present-day Maine and Massachusetts. In March of 1526, they finally arrived at their destination: an island off the coast of Cape Cod that Verrazzano named "Norman's Island."
The settlers spent the next few months exploring their new home and trying to establish friendly relations with the local Native Americans. However, relations quickly deteriorated and by the fall, hostilities had broken out. After several weeks of fighting, the settlers decided to abandon their settlement and return to Europe. They set sail in November 1526, bringing an end to the first ever European attempt at colonizing North America. Though the settlement was short-lived, it did leave behind one lasting legacy: the tradition of Thanksgiving.
2. Speaking of America's first Thanksgiving, it actually happened in 1621... but it wasn't called Thanksgiving!
The holiday we now know as Thanksgiving was originally called "The Feast of Excitement." How's that for a name change? The Pilgrims didn't start using the term "Thanksgiving" until well over a century later. And even then, it wasn't an annual holiday. It wasn't until Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 that the tradition really took hold. So next time you're enjoying your turkey dinner with all the fixings, give a little thanks to Honest Abe for making it possible. And don't forget to save some room for pumpkin pie!
3. Turkey wasn't even on the menu at the first Thanksgiving!
While turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving today, the truth is that the bird didn't make an appearance at the feast until many years later. In fact, the first recorded Thanksgiving feast in 1621 didn't include any turkeys at all. So how did this humble bird become such a holiday staple? The answer may surprise you. According to historical records, turkeys were introduced to England in the 16th century. By the early 1800s, they had become a popular dish in America as well. It's believed that turkeys were first served at Thanksgiving in 1827, when Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of "Godey's Lady's Book," advocated for their inclusion in the holiday meal. And the rest, as they say, is history! So next time you sit down to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, take a moment to give thanks to those early settlers - and that sly old turkey!
4. More than one president has declared Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Presidents and turkeys have a lot in common. They're both large, often clumsy, and tend to get roasted alive on a regular basis. But there's one key difference: presidents can declare Thanksgiving a national holiday, while turkeys can only hope to be served on one. George Washington was the first president to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday, and he did so in 1789. Abraham Lincoln followed suit in 1863, declaring that the holiday should be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. As a result, we have these two great presidents to thank for giving us an annual excuse to stuff our faces with turkey (and pumpkin pie). So this Thanksgiving, when you're sitting around the table with your family, take a moment to remember the men who made it all possible. And try not to think too hard about how they both ended up getting assassinated...
5. Can't get enough turkey? Every year, Americans consume around 46 million turkeys during Thanksgiving.
And if you're looking for a reason to be extra thankful this year, try this on for size: the average cost of a turkey has dropped by almost 70 cents from last year. That's right, Americans can enjoy their favorite Thanksgiving dish without breaking the bank. So if you're looking to get your fill of turkey this Thanksgiving, you're in luck. Just be sure to save room for pumpkin pie.
6. Green bean casserole is a relatively new addition to the Thanksgiving feast.
If you've ever been to a potluck Thanksgiving dinner, chances are you've seen at least one green bean casserole. This dish, which is made with green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions, has become a holiday staple for many families. But what you may not know is that green bean casserole is actually a relatively new addition to the Thanksgiving feast. The dish was created in 1955 by Campbell's Soup company, and it's become a staple of many holiday meals since then. So next time you're digging into a heaping serving of green beans, take a moment to appreciate this classic American dish. And if you're looking for a way to spice up your green bean casserole, why not try adding some crumbled bacon or shredded cheese on top? Delicious!
7. Cranberry sauce isn't just for turkeys!
Cranberry sauce is often thought of as a holiday food, something that only comes out of the can once a year and is exclusively eaten with turkey. However, the truth is that cranberry sauce is enjoyed by many Americans year-round. In fact, a recent survey found that 80% of respondents eat cranberry sauce with other dishes, including chicken, ham, and even grilled cheese sandwiches. And why not? Cranberry sauce is delicious, versatile, and easy to make. Plus, it adds a pop of color to any plate. So next time you're in the mood for something different, don't be afraid to break out the cranberry sauce - it's not just for Thanksgiving anymore!
8. Macy's parade has been a tradition since 1924... but it almost didn't happen!
The first parade was actually supposed to take place in 1927, but due to financial difficulties, it was moved up to 1924 instead. thankfully, Macy's was able to pull together the resources needed to put on an unforgettable parade. Over the years, the parade has become an iconic symbol of holiday cheer, attracting millions of spectators from all over the world. Today, the parade is watched by more than 50 million people and features some of the most popular cartoon characters and Broadway performers. It's safe to say that the Macy's parade is here to stay!
9. The biggest pumpkin pie ever made weighed 2,020 pounds and measured 12 feet wide!
If you thought your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie was big, think again! In 2005, New York baker Sally Foxxman Hughes set the world record for the largest pumpkin pie ever made. Weighing in at 2,020 pounds and measuring 12 feet wide, this massive pie was no small feat. Hughes spent hours baking the giant crust and filling it with 80 cans of pumpkin puree, 36 eggs, and 12 gallons of milk. The resulting pie was so large that it had to be transported on a flatbed truck! Today, the record-breaking pie is on display at the New York State Fairgrounds, where it continues to amaze and delight visitors from all over the world.
10. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin actually wanted the turkey to be America's national bird?
He thought that the eagle was too "queryish," whatever that means! Of course, Franklin's proposal was ultimately unsuccessful, and the eagle was chosen as America's national bird instead. Nevertheless, the turkey has continued to play an important role in American culture, serving as a symbol of abundance and holiday cheer. So as you enjoy your turkey dinner this year, remember that you are taking part in a centuries-old tradition—one that can be traced back to one of America's founding fathers.
11. The first Thanksgiving was actually three days long.
This means that there was plenty of time to enjoy all the traditional Thanksgiving foods, from turkey to cranberry sauce to green bean casserole. In fact, there was so much food that many people got sick from overeating! So if you're planning on indulging in a big Thanksgiving feast this year, be careful not to overdo it. You don't want to end up like one of the Pilgrims!
12. The original name for cranberries was "bounceberries."
In fact, the word "cranberry" actually comes from the Dutch word "kraanbessen," which means "crane berries." These berries get their name from the fact that they bounce when you step on them! So if you're looking for a fun fact to share with your family and friends this Thanksgiving, be sure to mention the origins of cranberry sauce.
13. Over 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten each year in the U.S.
Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without pumpkin pie. In fact, over 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten each year in the United States. That's a lot of pumpkins! Of course, not all of those pies are made from scratch. Some people take shortcuts by using canned pumpkin or store-bought pie crusts. But the best pies are always made from scratch, with fresh pumpkins and a flaky, homemade crust.
14. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
Although the tradition of Thanksgiving dates back to the days of the early settlers in America, it wasn't until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln officially declared it a national holiday. According to Lincoln, Thanksgiving was a time to express "gratitude for our national prosperity and (to) humble reliance on the protection of Divine Providence." In the years since then, Thanksgiving has become one of the most beloved holidays in America, a time for family, friends and feasting. Thanks to Lincoln's decree, we can all enjoy a turkey dinner safe in the knowledge that it is truly a national holiday.
There you have it - 14 fun facts about Thanksgiving that you probably didn't know! So whether you're getting together with family or friends this holiday season, now you can impress them with all kinds of new trivia knowledge about everyone's favorite feast day. Happy Turkey Day!