Turkey Trivia: A Few Fun Thanksgiving Facts

Flyby Blog

Pilgrims, turkey, and pumpkin pie—think you know a thing or two about Thanksgiving? Think again. This year, Flyby dug up a few little-known facts about the upcoming holiday to add a some spice to your dinner table chitchat.

#1: Turkeys by the Numbers

Last year, the U.S. raised a whopping 244 million turkeys, according to the National Turkey Foundation. Of those birds, approximately 46 million found themselves roasting in ovens across the country last Thanksgiving. For those of you keeping track, that means that almost 20% of the turkeys eaten in America are gobbled up on Thanksgiving.

#2: Turkey Wasn't the Main Dish at the First Thanksgiving

At least that's what the journals of Plimoth Plantation's Edward Winslow seem to imply. His account of the first Thanksgiving states that the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians feasted on venison, which was supplemented by Indian corn and some type of fowl. Some Thanksgiving staples noticeably absent from the original feast include potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.

#3: The First Thanksgiving Was Celebrated in Texas.

It's usually thought that Pilgrims' purported the "first" Thanksgiving in 1621, but information has surfaced suggesting that the original Thanksgiving feast took place prior to the Plymouth celebration. According to National Geographic, colonists in Florida, Maine, and Virginia all gathered for feasts of Thanksgiving prior to 1621, and going even further back, Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez Coronado appears to take the prize for the very first Thanksgiving, having celebrated the feast with his men in Texas in 1541.

#4: Thanksgiving and the Presidents

With Thanksgiving celebrations dating back to the sixteenth century, American presidents have recognized the importance of the annual festivities right from the start. In 1789, George Washington officially recognized November 26 as a day of thanks, and Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. But it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who, in 1939, tried to move Thanksgiving up to the third Thursday in November (an attempt to extend the period for Christmas shopping) before signing a law that sets Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November.

#5: The National Thanksgiving Turkey is One Lucky Duck

Roosevelt's successor, Harry Truman, left his own mark on the holiday by pardoning the first National Thanksgiving turkey. Every year since 1947, the president has ceremoniously pardoned a single lucky turkey presented by the Natioal Turkey Foundation. Not only does the pardoned fowl get to meet the prez and avoid several slow and unpleasant hours in Grandma's oven, but the lucky turkey also gets to spend the remainder of its feathered days at Mount Vernon.

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