10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

It’s that time of year again – the time when you sit around the dinner table stuffing your stomach, laughing at jokes, and celebrating what you’re thankful for!  Read on to learn funny and interesting facts about the holiday to share with your family and friends over the weekend!

  1. The Pardoning

Pardoning a turkey from death!  Have you heard of such a thing?  

Every Thanksgiving, as a celebration of patriotism and comradery, the current U.S. president pardons a turkey.  The White House Historical Association shared that this joyful, laugh-inducing tradition began when Lincoln’s young son, Tad, plead for the life of the gobbling creature that was to be his dinner.  Since that year, the Presidential Turkey Pardoning has been an off and on occurrence, finally solidifying in 1989 under President Bush. 

2. The Travel

Pack your Kindle and download your music because Thanksgiving travel routes are glowing red with traffic!

Car.  Bus.  Plane.  Train.  It does not matter which transportation method you use; Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest travel period of the year!  CNN travel reports an astonishing 30.6 million passengers travel on U.S. airlines.  The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, followed close behind by the day after.

3. The Cancellation

Un-stuff the turkey and hang up your pilgrim hats because Thanksgiving will not be celebrated while Thomas Jefferson is president!

In the early days of America, Thanksgiving was not an official holiday.  Each president had the responsibility to announce whether the feast would take place.  Because the people enjoyed the celebration, its cancellation was never a consideration until 1801.  Not wanting to endorse state-sponsored religion, President Jefferson forwent the occasion, much to the shock and dismay of his people.

4. The Proclamation

Heat up the oven and dust off the silver because Thanksgiving is coming back, and it’s coming in with a bang!

Unlike his former leader, Lincoln had no such reservations about the family-oriented holiday.  Rather than simply announcing its continuation for another year, Lincoln used his position to instate the feast as a national holiday on October 3, 1863.  He proclaimed this new holiday would take place on the fourth Thursday of November.

5. The Football

Kick-off! Foul! 50-yard-line! Touchdown!

NFL football is as rooted in Thanksgiving as turkey, but what exactly are those roots?  The first football game to occur on Thanksgiving Day was in Philadelphia when the Young America Cricket Club faced off against the Germantown Cricket Club in 1869.  Catching ahold of the exciting new trend, Yale played Princeton six years later.  In 1876, they went down in history as the first two college teams to play on Thanksgiving Day. Read more about Thanksgiving football here!

6. The Name “Tom”

Every nick-name has a story, and Benjamin Franklin is responsible for the one behind the turkey’s!

A lover of Thanksgiving, President Franklin wanted America’s national bird to be the turkey.  However, our cancellation president, Thomas Jefferson, was not in favor of this idea and instated the Bald Eagle as the country’s representative.  As a joke to get back at Jefferson, Franklin began calling male birds “Toms.”  Franklin comically wrote to his daughter in 1784, “I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of a bad moral character … like those among men who live by … robbing. The turkey … is a much more respectable bird … a true original native of America… though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage.” 

7. The State

Colorado, Florida, Maine; no matter where you’re eating a fat, stuffed turkey, there’s a high probability it came from the cold state of Minnesota.

This is because Minnesota produces the most turkeys in the U.S. at 44 million – 46 million birds a year!  The state is #1 for turkey production and processing.  The Minnesota Turkey Association notes that these birds are raised by 450 different family farmers.

8. The Length

Have you ever stretched a holiday past the day its celebrated?  [Looking at you, people who are already playing Christmas music!]

Feel free to do the same for Thanksgiving, because this celebration was originally three days long!  Edward Winslow, a pilgrim present for the first Thanksgiving, records, “with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted.”  Thanksgiving is meant to be a restful a rejuvenating holiday to celebrate community and thankfulness!

9. The Detour

“Something for Thanksgiving?” Have you ever heard of children at a doorstep begging for a treat in costumes on a holiday that was NOT Halloween?  Well, you’re about to…

In the 19th century, poorer Americans would go door to door asking, “Something for Thanksgiving.”  This plea caught the ears of young children and, as a crude joke, they also began going door to door, dressed up in rags and repeating the phrase.

When Lincoln officially instated the holiday in 1863, various towns began celebrating the occasion by throwing grand masquerades.  Stores were soon selling an abundance of masks during the season.  When the 1900s came around, individuals began to complain about the disrespecting behavior of the begging children.  They threw coins heated from the fire into the street and watched the children burn their fingers in an attempt to pick them up.

Though these “red pennies” did not stop the kids, ‘Ragamuffin Day’ came to an end when the Great Depression in the 1930s caused people to truly ask whether there was anything for Thanksgiving.  Americas’ “no” shifted thanksgiving back to the family-oriented holiday it is at present.

10. The Carol

“Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Did you know this song was written for Thanksgiving Day, hey!”

James Lord Pierpont, the artist who wrote Jingle Bells, originally intended the jolly tune to be sung in celebration of Thanksgiving Day.  The song developed as Pierpont was enjoying the merry season inside Simpson Tavern in Medford, Massachusetts; the renowned sleigh races occurring outside the window were his inspiration. 

At first, the title was “One Horse Open Sleigh,” but this, along with the lyrics, was quickly adjusted when the people adopted it into the Christmas carol family and published in 1857.  What began as a tune for Pierpont to play to his Sunday school class in Boston became a national classic.  

For more fun facts, click here!

Jordan Lance

Jordan Lance

Jordan Lance is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Runner.