Thanksgiving is a time of coming together with family and friends (and a time to gorge on copious amounts of turkey and carbs). In between bites of stuffing and pumpkin pie, snack on these unusual Turkey Day facts.
1. Thanksgiving used to look like Halloween
Thanksgiving circa 1910-1915 — Photo courtesy of Bain News Service / Library of Congress
At the turn of the 20th century, Thanksgiving was kind of creepy. Children and adults would dress up in masks and host costume crawls in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The tradition of children dressing up as poor people in New York became so popular that Thanksgiving was nicknamed “Ragamuffin Day.”
2. There are three U.S. towns named Turkey
Three towns in the U.S. are called Turkey — Photo courtesy of iStock / bazilfoto
These towns are located in Texas, Kentucky and North Carolina. Other Thanksgiving-themed town names include Pilgrim, Michigan; Cranberry, Pennsylvania and the amusingly-named Yum Yum in Tennessee.
3. The author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday
Sarah Josepha Hale — Photo courtesy of Richard’s Free Library, Newport, New Hampshire
The Continental Congress declared the first Thanksgiving in 1777, but the custom fell out of use around 1815. It wasn’t until Sarah Josepha Hale, best known for writing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” petitioned several presidents to make it a national holiday that it actually became one.
She finally succeeded in 1863 when President Lincoln issued a proclamation. However, Thanksgiving didn’t officially have the set date as the fourth Thursday in November until 1941.
4. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons used to float off all willy-nilly into the sky
Up until 1932, balloons from the New York parade were released into the sky when the festivities were over. Macy’s offered a $50 reward for those who found a deflated balloon and returned it. Unfortunately, it was a horrible idea because the giant balloons would burst after clearing the skyline. Science!
5. Turkey doesn’t make you tired
That turkey leg cannot be held responsible for this nap — Photo courtesy of iStock / JodiJacobson
Myth has it that we’re always so tired on Thanksgiving because of the tryptophan in turkey. According to WebMD, there is no more of the amino acid tryptophan in turkey than any other type of poultry. It’s more likely that you feel exhausted because of the ungodly amount of carbohydrates you just stuffed your face with.
6. Minnesota is the kingpin of turkey production
Turkey capital of the USA — Photo courtesy of iStock / AndreyKrav
If turkeys in the United States could speak, they’d use the word “pop” instead of “soda.” Approximately, 44 million to 46 million turkeys are raised in Minnesota annually.
7. Thanksgiving’s date was once a marketing scheme
FDR is responsible for our modern-day Thanksgiving schedule — Photo courtesy of Elias Goldensky / Wikimedia Commons
President Roosevelt officially changed the date of Thanksgiving in 1941 to be the second-to-last Thursday in November as a way to encourage more holiday shopping to boost the economy. That decision didn’t go over well, earning him comparisons to Hitler.
8. “Jingle Bells” was originally written for Thanksgiving
Nothing says Thanksgiving like a sleigh ride — Photo courtesy of iStock / MichelGuenette
Story has it that in 1850, James Lord Pierpont was at the Simpson Tavern in Medford, Massachusetts and was inspired by the town’s famous sleigh races. So, he plucked out a little tune on the piano. Needless to say, it was a hit with children and adults, and the lyrics were later slightly altered to be sung around Christmas.
9. Each year, the President “pardons” a turkey
JFK pardoning a turkey from the National Turkey Federation — Photo courtesy of Robert L. Knudsen / Wikimedia Commons
The Presidential Pardoning of the Turkey was formally started by George H W. Bush in 1989, even though several presidents including both Abraham Lincoln and JFK showed mercy to turkeys set for slaughter in their time.
10. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving every year
Detroit Lions — Photo courtesy of Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports
The idea to play on Thanksgiving started as a marketing ploy to get more attendance to games. The Detroit Lions started taking the field on Thanksgiving Day in 1934 and the Dallas Cowboys followed in 1966. What would Thanksgiving be without a football game to try and stay awake for?