Thanksgiving is a time of coming together with family and friends (and a time to gorge on copious amounts of turkey and carbs). In between bites of stuffing and pumpkin pie, snack on these unusual Turkey Day facts.
1. Thanksgiving used to look a lot like Halloween
Thanksgiving circa 1910-1915 — Photo courtesy of Bain News Service/Library of Congress
At the turn of the 20th century, Thanksgiving was kind of creepy. Children and adults would dress up in masks and host costume crawls in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The tradition of children dressing up as poor people in New York became so popular that Thanksgiving was nicknamed “Ragamuffin Day.”
2. There are three U.S. towns named Turkey
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
These towns are located in Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Other Thanksgiving town names include Pilgrim, Mich.; Cranberry, Pa.; and the hilariously named Yum Yum, Tenn.
3. The author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday
The Continental Congress declared the first Thanksgiving in 1777, but the custom fell out of use around 1815. It wasn’t until Sarah Josepha Hale, best known for writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," petitioned several presidents to make it a national holiday that it actually became one.
She finally succeeded in 1863 when President Lincoln issued a proclamation. However, Thanksgiving didn’t officially have the set date as the fourth Thursday in November until 1941.
4. Macy's Day Parade balloons used to float off all willy-nilly into the sky
Macy's Day Parade 1930 — Photo courtesy of AP Photo
Up until 1932, balloons from the Macy’s Day Parade in New York were released into the sky when the parade was over. Macy’s offered a $50 reward for those who found a deflated balloon and returned it. Unfortunately, it was a horrible idea because the giant balloons would burst after clearing the skyline. Science!
5. Turkey doesn't make you tired
Myth has it that we're always so tired on Thanksgiving because of the tryptophan in turkey. According to WebMD there is no more of the amino acid tryptophan in turkey than any other type of poultry. It's more likely that you feel exhausted because of the ungodly amount of carbohydrates you just stuffed your face with.
6. Minnesota is the kingpin of turkey production
Turkey capital of the USA — Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
If turkeys in the United States could speak, they'd use the word "pop" instead of "soda." The USDA predicts that Minnesota will raise 40 million turkeys this year.
7. Thanksgiving's date was once a marketing scheme
President Roosevelt officially changed the date of Thanksgiving in 1941 to be the second-to-last Thursday in November as a way to encourage more holiday shopping to boost the economy. That decision didn't go over well, earning him comparisons to Hitler.
8. "Jingle Bells" was originally written for Thanksgiving
Nothing says Thanksgiving like a sleigh ride — Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Story has it that in 1850, James Lord Pierpont was at the Simpson Tavern in Medford, Mass. and was inspired by Medford's famous sleigh races and plucked out a little tune on the piano. Needless to say, it was a hit with children and adults and the lyrics were later slightly altered to be sung around Christmas.
9. Each year the President "pardons" a turkey
The Presidential Pardoning of the Turkey was officially started by George H W. Bush in 1989 even though both Abraham Lincoln and JFK showed mercy to turkeys set for slaughter in their time.
10. Every year the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving
Detroit Lions — Photo courtesy of Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports
The idea to play on Thanksgiving started as a marketing ploy to get more attendance to games. The Detroit Lions started taking the field on Thanksgiving day in 1934 and the Dallas Cowboys followed in 1966. What would Thanksgiving be without a football game to try and stay awake for?
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