Thanksgiving Fun Facts
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Turkey Trivia1 of 17
By Julie Fishman and Paige Brettingen
Everyone's heard the basic Thanksgiving story, but few know the nuances behind the holiday's traditions. From food to football to falling asleep at the table, the following Turkey Day trivia will answer the Thanksgiving questions you didn't even think to ask. Impress—and possibly alarm—your family and friends with this cornucopia of atypical holiday facts.
The Tradition Begins2 of 17
A three-day feast with about 50 colonists and 90 Native Americans, the first Thanksgiving in 1621 didn't include mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie or cranberries. Deer, rabbit and squash graced the table, and historians believe that lobster, seal and swan may have been served as well. While fowl was on the menu, the bird of choice was probably not turkey.
Making It Official3 of 17
American leaders called for days of thanks rather regularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. A celebration on a specific day every year didn't occur until President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. For nearly 40 years prior to the declaration, eminent writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," among other titles—led a campaign to make the holiday official.
Gobble Gobble4 of 17
While "gobble" is the call most people associate with turkeys, the birds have at least 28 different known vocalizations. Other calls, including "yelps," "clucks," "putts," "cackles," "purrs," "hoots" and "hisses," are used to indicate danger, advertise the caller's sex, establish control and keep the flock together.
Dance Like a Turkey5 of 17
It may not be as popular as the chicken dance at weddings, but the turkey has a dance, too. The turkey trot, which emerged in the U.S. in the early 1900s, is a two-step move modeled after the bird's short, jerky steps. It was especially popular during the 1920s when couples typically incorporated it while dancing the Charleston.
Peanuts Ritual6 of 17
Created by Charles Schulz in 1973 and originally airing on CBS, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving won an Emmy in 1974. Now shown on ABC every Thanksgiving night, the show is usually paired with another half-hour special. Since 2008, the accompaniment has been "The Mayflower Voyagers," an episode from the This Is America, Charlie Brown miniseries.
Tired From Turkey?7 of 17
Despite popular belief, the tryptophan in turkey is probably not responsible for post-meal drowsiness. Thanksgiving sleepiness is more likely caused by drinking excess alcohol and eating a large, high-carbohydrate meal that the body must work hard to digest. While eating turkey on a completely empty stomach without any other food might make you a tad tired, when served as part of a hefty feast, the tryptophan's effect is negligible.
Lions & Tigers & Bears8 of 17
The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 drew a quarter of a million people and featured costumed Macy's employees, professional bands, and animals from Central Park Zoo. Today, over 3 million people attend the parade, and another 50 million tune in on the tube.
Balloon Hunt9 of 17
Giant helium balloons were added to Macy's parade in 1927. While Macy's planned to release them into the sky following the parade, the balloons popped on their ascent. The following year, the release was successful, and the balloons floated above the region for several days. Any kid lucky enough to find one of the deflated balloons thereafter received a free gift from the department store.
Pies Have It10 of 17
According to Guinness World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked was 12 feet in diameter and 2,020 pounds. The recipe required 900 pounds of pumpkin, 1,860 eggs, 300 pounds of sugar and 250 pounds of crust, among other ingredients. The creators claim they've broken their own record with a pie that's 20 feet in diameter and 3,699 pounds, but Guinness has yet to confirm the achievement.
Game Time11 of 17
The tradition of holding a "Thanksgiving Classic" started in 1934, when the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions in front of 26,000 fans. Detroit's all-time record on the holiday is 33 wins, 36 losses and two ties, and the only time the Lions didn't play a game on Thanksgiving Day was when the NFL was on moratorium during World War II.
Feast Facts12 of 17
The average Thanksgiving turkey weighs 15 pounds and is comprised of 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. According to the National Turkey Federation's most recent estimate in 2007, 46 million turkeys—one-fifth of the annual total of 235 million—were eaten at Thanksgiving.
Sourcing the Feast13 of 17
The U.S. ranks as the largest producer of turkeys in the world (one-quarter of a billion birds annually). The U.S. state that earns the No. 1 spot for most turkeys produced? Minnesota, which raises about 47 million turkeys each year. Meanwhile, Wisconsin wins as the top cranberry producer, Illinois is the biggest pumpkin grower and North Carolina reigns as the king of sweet potatoes.
Date Swap14 of 17
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of the month in an effort to spur shopping during The Great Depression. Met with vast public opposition, Roosevelt was forced to change the holiday back to the last Thursday in November just two years later.
Pardon Me15 of 17
The National Turkey Federation has given a turkey to the White House every Thanksgiving since 1947. Until 1989—when George H. Bush began the tradition of pardoning the White House turkey—nearly every president chose to eat the bird. Spared turkeys spend the rest of their days in the happiest place on earth: Disneyland.
Almost Famous16 of 17
Though Thomas Jefferson selected the bald eagle as our national bird, Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey was a better candidate. A "bird of courage," a turkey, Franklin believed, "would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard." In comparison, he said the eagle had "bad moral character" and played a lesser role in early American life.
Birds That Burn Rubber17 of 17
While commercially raised turkeys usually can't fly—breeding practices have altered their body proportions—the wild variety can hit speeds of up to 55 miles per hour when spooked by a predator. They can also run up to 20 miles an hour, making them a tough target for hunters.
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