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10 Thanksgiving facts to gobble up

by Meghan Tankersley for USA TODAY 10Best

Thanksgiving is a time of coming together and gorging 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 like Halloween

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.

Photo courtesy of Bain News Service / Library of Congress

2. There are three U.S. towns named Turkey

These towns are located in Texas, Kentucky and North Carolina. Other Thanksgiving-themed town names include Pilgrim, Michigan; Cranberry, Pennsylvania and Yum Yum, Tennessee.

3. The author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday

Sarah Josepha Hale petitioned several presidents to make it a national holiday. She succeeded in 1863.

4. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons used to float off all willy-nilly into the sky

Up until 1932, balloons from the parade were released into the sky when the festivities were over. Macy’s offered a $50 reward for those who found a balloon and returned it.

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.

6. Minnesota is the kingpin of turkey production

Approximately 44 million to 46 million turkeys are raised in Minnesota annually.

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.

8. "Jingle Bells" was originally written for Thanksgiving

Story has it that in 1850, James Lord Pierpont was at the Simpson Tavern in Medford, Massachusetts and was inspired by the town's famous sleigh races. So, he plucked out a little tune on the piano.

9. Each year, the President "pardons" a turkey

The Presidential Pardoning of the Turkey was formally started by George H.W. Bush in 1989, even though several presidents, including both Lincoln and JFK, showed mercy to turkeys in their time.

10. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving every year

The idea to play on Thanksgiving started as a marketing ploy to get more attendance to games.

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