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Top Ten Thanksgiving Fun Facts

Thanksgiving is this week, and if you’re anything like us you can’t wait to sink your teeth into a delicious piece of turkey, cranberry sauce and an extra slice of pumpkin pie for dessert.

We’ve all heard the origin story of Thanksgiving, acted it out in school plays, made a paper cornucopia and the like. But what are some things we don’t know about the holiday? Turns out, there's quite a bit. To get you started, here’s a list of the top ten Thanksgiving fun facts to know.

1. Thanksgiving didn’t become a holiday until 1863.
Although the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621, it didn’t become a holiday until over 200 years later! A writer named Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned for 20 years for Thanksgiving to become a recognized holiday, until President Lincoln acknowledged it in 1863.

2. The first Thanksgiving didn’t even have turkey.
In fact, on the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians enjoyed mostly deer, venison, ducks, geese, oysters, lobster, eel and fish. They may have thrown a pumpkin or two in there, but no pumpkin pies were to be found either.

3. There were no forks at the first Thanksgiving.
Forks weren’t introduced to the Pilgrims until 10 years after the first Thanksgiving had already occurred, and they didn’t become popular until the 18th century. That means the first Thanksgiving was enjoyed using only spoons and knives as utensils.

4. Thanksgiving was almost a fast, not a feast.
The Pilgrims fully intended on giving thanks for their first harvest through praying and fasting from food, but the Wampanoag Indians had a different idea. Instead, they planned a three-day feast, which we now celebrate today.

5. TV dinners originated from Thanksgiving.
In 1953, Swanson overestimated the amount of frozen turkeys it would sell for Thanksgiving by 26 tons! This caused them to come up with the idea of slicing up the meat and selling it in packages with a few sides to go. Thus, the first TV dinner was born.

6. We eat a lot of food on Thanksgiving.
In fact, every Thanksgiving sees about 280 million turkeys sold, equalling $3 billion dollars in sales. 91% of Americans say they eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, accompanied with 20% of all cranberries sold annually.

7. Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be a turkey.
If Ben Franklin had had his way, our national bird would be the turkey—not the eagle. In fact, he even wrote a letter to his daughter complaining about the eagle’s “bad moral character.” On the other hand, the turkey was a “much more respectable bird.”

8. There are a couple Turkey towns in the U.S.
Turkey Creek, Louisiana is the largest Turkey town, with a population of 440. But don’t forget about Turkey Creek, Arizona; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey, Texas. And of course there’s the two Pennsylvania townships, Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.

9. Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday of November.
While Lincoln said Thanksgiving would be the last Thursday in November, President Roosevelt innovatively tried to move it up a week (to add more time to the shopping season). This never caught on, and Thanksgiving is still celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

10. Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving isn’t just for Americans. In fact, Canadians celebrate Turkey Day too, except theirs is on the second Monday in October. They also like to call the American Thanksgiving “Yanksgiving” to try and distinguish the two.

Do you have other fun facts about Thanksgiving? Tell us! Then take time to enjoy this holiday season with friends, family and some delicious food.