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Coolest Thanksgiving Facts, Traditions and History

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Below you'll find some interesting Thanksgiving facts, traditions and other bits of information relating to the history of Thanksgiving.

  • The traditional cornucopia was a curved goat's horn filled to brim with fruits and grains. According to Greek legend, Amalthea (a goat) broke one of her horns and offered it to Greek God Zeus as a sign of reverence. As a sign of gratitude, Zeus later set the goat's image in the sky also known as constellation Capricorn. Cornucopia is the most common symbol of a harvest festival. A Horn shaped container, it is filled with abundance of the Earth's harvest. It is also known as the 'horn of plenty’.

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  • It was not until 1941, that congress declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It was declared to be the fourth Thursday in November.

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  • The first known thanksgiving feast or festival in North America was celebrated by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and the people he called "Tejas" (members of the Hasinai group of Caddo-speaking Native Americans).

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  • Here's one of those funny Thanksgiving facts: Turkeys have heart attacks. When the Air Force was conducting test runs and breaking the sound barrier, fields of turkeys would drop dead.

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  • Turducken, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, is becoming more popular in Thanksgiving (originated in Louisiana). A turducken is a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. The cavity of the chicken and the rest of the gaps are filled with, at the very least, a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture (although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird).
  • Fossil evidence shows that turkeys roamed the Americas 10 million years ago.
  • 91% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
  • There are regional differences as to the "stuffing" (or "dressing") traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make theirs from cornbread, while in other parts of the country white bread is the base. One or several of the following may be added: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausage or the turkey's giblets.
  • Thomas Jefferson thought the concept of Thanksgiving was "the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard."
  • Every President since Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day. But in 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November to lengthen the holiday shopping season. This upset people.
  • Fifty percent of Americans put the stuffing inside the Turkey.
  • The North American holiday season (generally the Christmas shopping season in the U.S.) traditionally begins when Thanksgiving ends, on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving); this tradition has held forth since at least the 1930s.
  • On the West Coast of the US, Dungeness crab is common as an alternate main dish instead of turkey, as crab season starts in early November.
  • Corn is one of the popular symbols of thanksgiving. It came in many varieties and colors - red, white, yellow and blue. Some Americans considered blue and white corn sacred. The oldest corns date 7000 years back and were grown in Mexico.
  • Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be a turkey.
  • Several people wanted to have an official day of thanksgiving, including George Washington, who proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. Several people did not want it including President Thomas Jefferson.
  • Here's one of the most unbelievable Thanksgivng facts: The Guinness Book of Records states that the greatest dressed weight recorded for a turkey is 39.09 kg (86 lbs), at the annual "heaviest turkey" competition held in London, England on December 12, 1989.
  • The first Thanksgiving was not a feast, but rather a time when Native Americans helped Pilgrims by bringing them food and helping them build off the land.
  • More than 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving.
  • Turkey is the traditional dish for the Thanksgiving feast. In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations. There is no official reason or declaration for the use of turkey. They just happened to be the most plentiful meat available at the time of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, starting the tradition.
  • Twenty percent of cranberries eaten are eaten on Thanksgiving.
  • The preliminary estimate of the number of turkeys raised in the United States in 2005 is 256 million. That’s down 3 percent from 2004. The turkeys produced in 2004 weighed 7.3 billion pounds altogether and were valued at $3.1 billion.
  • Turkeys were one of the first animals in the Americas to be domesticated.
  • Columbus thought that the land he discovered was connected to India, where peacocks are found in considerable number. And he believed turkeys were a type of peacock (they’re actually a type of pheasant). So he named them “tuka”, which is "peacock" in the Tamil language of India.
  • The 'wishbone' of the turkey is used in a good luck ritual on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The cranberry is a symbol and a modern diet staple of thanksgiving. Originally called crane berry, it derived its name from its pink blossoms and drooping head, which reminded the Pilgrims of a crane.
  • The Plymouth Pilgrims dined with the Wampanoag Indians for the First Thanksgiving.
  • The different nicknames for Thanksgiving Day: “Turkey Day” (after the traditional Thanksgiving dinner), “T-Day” (an abbreviation of either “Thanksgiving Day” or “Turkey Day”), “Macy’s Day (this is exclusive to New York City – it is a reference to the Macy’s Day Parade), “Yanksgiving” (Canadians sometimes call the Thanksgiving in the US as “Yanksgiving” to distinguish it from the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday.)
  • The First Thanksgiving lasted for three days.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Native Americans did not eat cranberries. They did, however, find them extremely useful for dying fabric and decorating pottery.
  • The Native Americans wore deerskin and fur, not blankets.

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  • A spooked turkey can run at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. They can also burst into flight approaching speeds between 50-55 mph in a matter of seconds.

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  • Turkeys are first documented over two thousand years ago in Central America and Mexico.

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  • In October of 1777 all 13 colonies celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time; however it was a one-time affair commemorating a victory over the British at Saratoga.

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  • There are three places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course — Turkey, Texas; Turkey Creek, La.; and Turkey, N.C. There are also nine townships around the country named “Turkey,” with three in Kansas.

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  • Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, campaigned to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1827 and succeeded.

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  • Wild turkeys, while technically the same species as domesticated turkeys, have a very different taste from farm-raised turkeys. Almost all of the meat is "dark" (even the breasts) with a more intense turkey flavor. Older heritage breeds also differ in flavor.

Here are more cool Thanksgiving facts and historical background...