21 Nov 10 Fun Facts about Thanksgiving
Every year, millions of Americans look forward to their favorite holiday activities: a big Thanksgiving meal featuring turkey and many other traditional dishes, a gathering of family and friends, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, lighting ceremonies, and more. Like all major holidays and celebrations, there is a rich history of facts, figures, and stories. Some you may know. Some not. Here’s 10 of our favorites:
1. Ironically, TV dinners, the antithesis of a Thanksgiving meal, have Thanksgiving to thank for their existance. In 1953, someone at Swanson misjudged the number of frozen turkeys it would sell that Thanksgiving — by 26 TONS! Some industrious soul came up with a brilliant plan: Why not slice up the meat and repackage with some trimmings on the side? Thus, the first TV dinner was born!
2. Only wild turkeys, which are lighter, can fly; they actually fly up into trees to sleep at night. Domesticated turkeys CANNOT fly. A lesson learned by WKRP’s Les Nessnman and Arthur Carlson in the “Turkeys Away” episode in 1978. Clip here. Entire episode here.
3. There are four places in the U.S. named Turkey. Louisiana’s Turkey Creek is the most populous, with a whopping 440 residents. There’s also Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Arizona. Oh, let’s not forget the two townships in Pennsylvania: the creatively named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot!
4. A magazine editor played a large role in establishing the holiday: When Abe Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, it was thanks to the tireless efforts of a magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. Her other claim to fame? She also wrote the nursery rhyme, “Mary had a Little Lamb.”
5. Gobble, gobble?: Not so fast. Only male turkeys, called toms, gobble. They also make other noises that females make as well, among them yelp, cackle, and cluck. 8 noises turkeys make.
6. Ben Franklin floated the idea of the turkey as the national bird of the United States. An eagle, he wrote in a letter to his daughter, had “bad moral character.” A turkey, on the other hand, was a “much more respectable bird.”
7. Thanksgiving is not just an American holiday. Canadians celebrate it too. Except they do it the second Monday in October.
8. FDR tried to change the day. But, he learned the hard way not to mess with some traditions. In 1939, the President declared that Americans should celebrate the annual feast one week early, hoping the decision would spur retail sales during the Great Depression. But Americans did not react kindly to the New Deal meal. Some took to the streets while others took to name-calling; the mayor of Atlantic City solved the controversy by declaring his residents would simply enjoy two meals — Thanksgiving and “Franksgiving.” After two years of squabbling (or gobbling, as it were), Congress adopted a resolution in 1941 setting the fourth Thursday of November as the legal holiday.
9. The balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were originally cut loose at the end. Because there were no deflation procedures in place, the earliest parade balloons were just let go at the end, and those who found them after they came back down to earth could send them back to Macy’s to claim a prize.
10. Why is it called a turkey? One theory is that when Europeans first encountered turkeys in America, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl, which were already being imported into Europe by Turkey merchants via Constantinople and were therefore nicknamed Turkey coqs. The name of the North American bird thus became “turkey fowl” or “Indian turkeys,” which was then shortened to just “turkeys”. The other theory involves turkeys coming to England from the Americas via merchant ships from the Middle East, where they were domesticated successfully. Again the importers lent the name to the bird: because these merchants were called “Turkey merchants” as much of the area was part of the Ottoman Empire. Hence the name “Turkey birds” or, soon thereafter, “turkeys”.