9 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

17 Nov 2023


It’s that time of year again! Thanksgiving is quickly approaching.

While you’re getting ready to gather with your loved ones, we thought it would be fun to share some interesting Thanksgiving trivia with you and give you some fun facts to share around the dinner table.

So, read on—and be sure to take notes, so you can impress your family with your amazing Thanksgiving knowledge!

9 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

Fact #1: Philadelphia is home to the oldest Thanksgiving parade.

You’re probably familiar with the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

But did you know that Philadelphia was actually the first city to have a parade on Thanksgiving?

Hosted by the Gimbel Brothers Department Store in 1920, the parade would go on to inspire the famous Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade, which began four years later, in 1924.

Fact #2: Americans eat an estimated 50 million pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving.

While apple pie remains the most popular pie in America, on Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie is the reigning champion.

Fact #3: The first Thanksgiving lasted 3 whole days

In November 1621, the settlers’ first corn harvest was so successful that Pylmouth Governor, William Bradford, reportedly invited the colonists’ allies, the Wampanoag tribe, to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Members of the tribe showed up with plenty of their own goodies to share.

The group ended up with such an abundance of food, that they decided to extend the party. While the menu consisted of many different meats and seafood, it is reported that turkey was not among the dishes enjoyed that day.

Fact #4: Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until 1863

Although the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621, and there are many reported occasions of celebrating the holiday after that date, it took over 200 years for the entire nation to get on board. It wasn’t until 1863, at the height of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  

Fact #5: Americans consume approximately 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving

Yep- you read that right. 46 MILLION! While some people enjoy ham or tofurky on Thanksgiving, the majority of American families cannot image a Thanksgiving without a delicious juicy bird on the table. In fact, the National Turkey Federation estimates that 88% of Americans eat turkey on turkey day.

Fact #6: Only male turkeys actually gobble.

When we were little, we all learned that turkeys say, “gobble gobble.” However, that is only sort of true.  

Only male turkeys — fittingly named “gobblers” — actually make the gobble sound. Female turkeys, on the other hand, make a cackle sound.

So, if you ever find yourself wondering whether a turkey is male or female, just listen for them to open their beaks.

Fact #7: “Jingle Bells” was originally written as a Thanksgiving Day song.

When composer, James Pierpont, first wrote “Jingle Bells” in 1857, the song was titled “One Horse Open Sleigh,” and was intended to be a song for Thanksgiving. However, the melody quickly became a Christmas hit, so two years later it was re-named “Jingle Bells” and has been a well-loved Christmas song ever since.

Fact #8: A botched Thanksgiving order lead to the invention of frozen “TV tray” dinners

In 1953, an employee at C.A. Swanson & Sons overestimated demand for Thanksgiving turkey and ordered too many —nearly 260 tons too many— of the frozen birds. A quick-thinking Swanson salesman saved the day by ordering 5,000 aluminum trays and creating a turkey meal, recruiting an assembly line of workers to compile what would become the first TV tray dinners. The creation was such a success that in 1954, the company would go on the sell 10-million turkey TV tray dinners.  

Fact #9: The annual White House tradition of “pardoning” a turkey officially started with George H.W. Bush in 1989.

In the 1940s, farmers began a tradition of gifting the president with their prize turkeys to enjoy with their family. However, starting in 1989 with George H.W. Bush, the U.S. presidents started a tradition of pardoning a turkey each year, and allowing it to live a long life in a farm somewhere.

Although the official tradition of pardoning started in 1989, Bush was not the first president to save an animal from slaughter on Thanksgiving. John F. Kennedy was actually the first president to pardon a turkey, when he decided to “just let this one grow” in 1963.

While John F. Kennedy was the first to pardon a turkey, it was actually President Calvin Coolidge who was the first president known to pardon an animal on Thanksgiving.

In 1926, Coolidge reportedly received a gift of a live racoon from a Mississippi man. Instead of eating it, as the man intended Coolidge to do, the president and his family adopted the raccoon as a pet, who they named Rebecca.

Watercooler Writers  
Ever wonder what writers talk about? Our writers are always sharing something new with each other, from the latest and greatest in apps and technology to grammar rules and the origin of certain words. With our Watercooler Writer series, we have taken our very best finds, and are sharing them with you.

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