10 unusual Thanksgiving facts to gobble up

A cornucopia of Turkey Day tidbits

By Meghan Tankersley, Editor

1. Thanksgiving used to look like Halloween

Thanksgiving circa 1910-1915 [View Image]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 YorkLos 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

Three towns in the U.S. are called Turkey [View Image]Three towns in the U.S. are called Turkey — Photo courtesy of iStock / bazilfoto

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

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

Sarah Josepha Hale [View Image]Sarah Josepha Hale — Photo courtesy of Richard’s Free Library, Newport, New Hampshire

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 Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons used to float off all willy-nilly into the sky

Up until 1932, balloons from the New York parade were released into the sky when the festivities were 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

That turkey leg cannot be held responsible for this nap [View Image]That turkey leg cannot be held responsible for this nap — Photo courtesy of iStock / JodiJacobson

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.10BESTWhat to make if you’re having a Throwback Thursday Thanksgiving

6. Minnesota is the kingpin of turkey production

Turkey capital of the USA [View Image]Turkey capital of the USA — Photo courtesy of iStock / AndreyKrav

If turkeys in the United States could speak, they’d use the word “pop” instead of “soda.” Approximately, 44 million to 46 million turkeys are raised in Minnesota annually.

7. Thanksgiving’s date was once a marketing scheme

FDR is responsible for our modern-day Thanksgiving schedule [View Image]FDR is responsible for our modern-day Thanksgiving schedule — Photo courtesy of Elias Goldensky / Wikimedia Commons

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 [View Image]Nothing says Thanksgiving like a sleigh ride — Photo courtesy of iStock / MichelGuenette

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. 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

JFK pardoning a turkey from the National Turkey Federation [View Image]JFK pardoning a turkey from the National Turkey Federation — Photo courtesy of Robert L. Knudsen / Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Detroit Lions [View Image]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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