Interesting Facts about Thanksgiving
Although there are documented instances of Thanksgiving feasts happening in America dating back to the 16th century, the most widely accepted first Thanksgiving is the 1621 Thanksgiving at Plymouth. This Thanksgiving feast lasted for three days and wasn’t intended to be an annual event. The menu included duck, venison, goose, and various types of fish. There were also no forks at the 1621 Thanksgiving celebration. Forks didn’t become commonly used in North America until the late 18th century.
George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December 1777 to celebrate the defeat of British troops at Saratoga.
Thanksgiving didn’t become an annual national holiday until 1863. Influential magazine editor and writer Sarah Josepha Hale (also the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) had spent about 20 years lobbying presidents and congressmen, in hopes of having Thanksgiving made a national holiday until she finally had success with President Abraham Lincoln.
Sarah Joseph Hale decided Thanksgiving ought to be on the last Thursday of November since it wouldn’t interfere with elections, harvests would be completed, and people who spend the summer months traveling would be back home by then.
Hale’s contributions to Thanksgiving didn’t stop at having it made into an annual national holiday. With her position as a writer and magazine editor, she published many recipes for things that have since become classic parts of Thanksgiving dinners including turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to move Thanksgiving from the last Thursday of November to the second-to-last Thursday in November as a way to extend the holiday shopping season and boost the economy, which was still reeling from the Great Depression. Thanksgiving was officially held on the second-to-last Thursday in 1939, 1940, and 1941, but many states celebrated on the old date instead. The confusion prompted Congress to step in and officially designate the last Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving.
The tradition of the president granting a pardon to one turkey every Thanksgiving began with President Harry S. Truman.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been an annual event since 1924 and is watched on television by 44 million people. The now-defunct department store Gimbels started their own Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia in 1920, which is still an annual event, making it the country’s oldest Thanksgiving Day parade. The Gimbels parade is now known as the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade.
About 280 million turkeys are sold every year for Thanksgiving dinners. The average size of a turkey sold for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds. California is the state that consumes the most turkeys.
Thanksgiving Day and the day before Thanksgiving are the two busiest travel days of the year. 91% of Thanksgiving travelers travel by car and 56% of those drivers travel at least 100 miles. 24 million people traveled by airplane for Thanksgiving in 2010. The five busiest airports at Thanksgiving are Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Logan International Airport in Boston, LaGuardia Airport in New York City, and San Francisco International Airport.