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Fun Facts - Thanksgiving

By DeLena Ciamacco on Nov 24, 2014

We are sure you've heard stories on the history of Thanksgiving a million times, and will probably hear even more this week. Well then, allow us to enlighten you with some strange and funny facts about the famous holiday that you might not have heard before.

The Meaning of Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Americans commonly trace the Thanksgiving holiday to a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them (Squanto had learned English during his enslavement in England). Additionally the Wampanoag leader Massasoit had donated food stores to the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient. The Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth for three days after their first harvest, in 1621. It included 50 Pilgrims (all who remained of the 100 who had landed) and 90 Native Americans who were invited as guests.

• The original Thanksgiving included a menu featuring swans, seal, lobster, and deer. Cakes and pies were not a part of the meal as the pilgrim’s sugar supply had dwindled during the year and they possessed no ovens. There were also no forks at the first Thanksgiving; they were not popularized until the 18th century. • Squanto, the Pawtuxet Indian responsible for teaching the pilgrims how to farm, fish, and avoid poisonous plants was fluent in English after being captured by an English sea captain, sold into slavery, and escaping to London before returning to the new world on an exploratory trip. • The first state to officially adopt the holiday was New York in 1817. • Sarah Joseph Hale, the woman responsible for the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday before Abraham Lincoln heeded her request in 1863. • The official date set by Lincoln for the Thanksgiving holiday was the last Thursday in November, until Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week in 1939 to spur spending for the Christmas holiday during the height of the Depression. • The first Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924, and used real animals borrowed from Central Park Zoo. The Goodyear Company would make the first helium balloon for the parade in 1927, officially replacing the animals. Balloon handlers used to release the balloons at the end of the parade with the promise of rewards for whoever found them once they touched down. Today the parade attracts 2 to 3 million spectators along the parade route each year. • Thanksgiving is celebrated annually by the United States, Canada, Liberia, Puerto Rico, and Norfolk Island. Canadians even refer to our Thanksgiving as “Yanksgiving” in order to differentiate them (theirs is held the second Monday in October.) • The best way to test if your cranberries are ripe? Bounce them on the ground; if they bounce higher than 4 inches, they’re ready to be made into sauce. Cranberries are only one of three fruits that are originally native to the United States. • Frozen T.V. dinners were created in 1953 in an effort to get rid of 260 tons of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving that manufacturers still had not sold. • In 2007, Americans consumed 690 million pounds of turkey for Thanksgiving according to the National Turkey Association. That is roughly equal to the weight of the entire population of Singapore. • The tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving began in 1934, after the creation of the Detroit Lions, who were formerly the Portsmouth Spartans. To generate interest and attention for the new team, their owner set up a game for Thanksgiving Day against the defending world champs, the Chicago Bears. The tradition stuck from there. • Green bean casserole, a staple at most Thanksgiving meals is only 57 years old. Campbell’s Soup created the recipe in 1955 in an effort to generate sales for their cream of mushroom soup. • The night before Thanksgiving is the single biggest sales day at bars across the United States, beating out St. Patrick’s Day for the title. The theory is that thousands of people descend on their old home towns where they meet up with old friends and head to the bars to catch up and celebrate. This time also marks the release of most brewing companies Christmas and Holiday ales. • Minnesota is the biggest turkey producing state in the country, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and Indiana. These six states account for 2 in 3 turkeys sold during Thanksgiving. • Turkeys pardoned by the President of the United States annually end up at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch in California, where they live out the rest of their natural lives. This year’s turkeys hail from Rockingham County, Virginia and go by “Cobbler” and “Gobbler"

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