Cornucopia of Knowledge

Happy Thanksgiving-Eve, friends! Today, we’re going to forego our regular ask-an-attorney post, because we know you have turkey prep to get to. Instead, today, we’re going to share a parcel of fun Thanksgiving facts that you can share around the table tomorrow, and have everyone think you are the pinnacle of knowledge. Won’t they be impressed?

  • The first Thanksgiving was held in the autumn of 1621. It lasted for three days, and included 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. Historians believe that only 4 women were present because so many women didn’t survive that difficult first year in the U.S.
  • The Mayflower’s average speed was a whopping 2 miles per hour, and it took the Pilgrims 66 days to sail from England to the New World!
  • 102 Passengers set sail on the Mayflower to come to the New World. While en route, one died and another was born, so 102 passengers arrived at Plymouth.
  • Thanksgiving was almost a fast — not a feast! The Pilgrims’ tradition was to give thanks by praying and abstaining from food, which is how they planned to celebrate their first harvest – until the Wampanoag Indians joined them and (lucky for us!) turned their fast into a three-day feast!
  • Historians tell us that turkey was not on the menu at the first Thanksgiving. Instead, they had deer or venison, ducks, geese, oysters, lobster, eel, and fish.   Also, while it is likely that they ate pumpkins, pumpkin pies were not invented yet. They also didn’t eat mashed potatoes or cranberry relish, but they probably ate cranberries.
  • Speaking of pumpkin pie, the Pilgrims prepared their pumpkin treats by filling a hollowed-out shell with milk, honey, and spices, then baking it in hot ashes. (They didn’t have ovens to bake pie crusts like we do now back then.)
  • The first Thanksgiving was eaten with spoons and knives — but no forks! Why? Because forks weren’t even introduced to the Pilgrims until 10 years later, and they weren’t a popular utensil until the 18th century.
  • Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until over 200 years after the first Thanksgiving when Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who wrote the children’s song “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday starting in 1863. Prior to that, she had campaigned for 17 years via letter writing to get the holiday the recognition it deserved.
  • The tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving started in 1920 when the NFL started the Thanksgiving Classic games. Since then, the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted games on Thanksgiving Day, and in 2006, a third game was added with different teams hosting.
  • 1924 saw the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when 400 employees marched from Convent Ave to 145th Street in New York City. While they didn’t have the famous balloons and floats they are now known for, they were accompanied in their march by live animals from the Central Park Zoo!
  • Originally, Thanksgiving was set to be on the third Thursday of November when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a holiday, but in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday in November, because he hoped it would boost the shopping season during the Depression era. The idea behind the change never caught on, and it was changed back two years later.
  • Each year, the President of the United States pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. This tradition started in 1947 with President Harry Truman.
  • Thanksgiving is the reason for TV dinners! In 1953, Swanson had so much extra turkey (260 tons!), that a salesman told them they should package it onto aluminum trays with other sides like sweet potatoes — and that’s how the first TV dinner was born!
  • In 1955, the Campbell’s soup company invented green bean casserole for its annual cookbook. It now sells $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each Thanksgiving season!
  • After their famous moon walk, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first meal in space consisted of foil packets containing roasted turkey.
  • In 2009, President Barack Obama pardoned a 45-pound turkey named Courage – and then the bird was flown to Disneyland and served as Grand Marshal of the park’s Thanksgiving Day parade!
  • Wild turkeys can actually run as fast as 20 miles per hour when they are scared, however, domesticated turkeys that are bred to be eaten are heavier and cannot move as quickly.
  • Americans eat 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving!
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the heaviest turkey weighed in at 86 pounds, however, the average Thanksgiving turkey weighs only 15 pounds.
  • California consumes the most turkey in the United States on Thanksgiving Day!
  • Female turkeys (called hens) do not gobble. Only male turkeys gobble.
  • After turkeys are plucked, their feathers are ground up and used as protein in animal feed! Feathers are made of keratin which ruminant animals such as cows are able to digest.
  • However, 4,000 turkey feathers were not converted to cattle food – they were dyed yellow and used to create Sesame Street’s Big Bird!
  • Turkey chicks are actually called pults or turkeylings! Once they become adults, female turkeys are called hens, and males are called toms in the U.S. or stags in Europe.
  • The wobbly red piece of flesh on top of the beak of a turkey is called a snood. The red bit of flesh under the beak is called a wattle.
  • Antarctica is the only continent that does not produce pumpkins.
  • Pumpkin pie is not an international treat! In fact, the British typically find it revolting!
  • Both the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and America’s Thanksgiving Parade conclude with the arrival of Santa Claus.
  • Morton, Illinois is responsible for the highest turkey production each year, while the state of North Carolina produces the most sweet potatoes each year.
  • The cornucopia, also known as “a horn of plenty,” was prevalent in Greek mythology.
  • Cranberries must bounce no less than 4 inches before they can be harvested. (Firm berries bounce while softer berries that are overly ripe will simply drop.)
  • The Butterball Turkey Hotline answers more than 100,000 questions during the holiday season each year.
  • A single can of jellied cranberry sauce contains close to 200 cranberries!
  • The average Thanksgiving meal contains a whopping 4,500 calories!
  • America’s first turkey trot took place more than a century ago. The race, which was hosted by the local YMCA in Buffalo, New York, included just six runners — although only four of them made it to the finish line. One runner dropped out when his “late breakfast refused to keep in its proper place” and another simply excused himself after two miles.
  • Diehard Thanksgiving fans can actually move to a town named after the foods of their favorite holiday. The U.S. Census has identified four cities in the U.S. named Turkey, another four named Cranberry, and a grand total of 34 dubbed Plymouth. (We bet they take their celebrations very seriously.)

Well, we have pies to bake, so it’s time to close. On behalf of Dean Burnetti Law, we’d like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!


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