25 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

Posted by , Updated on November 27, 2022

It’s that critical time of year again – a time to give thanks, get stuffed, and get stuff. A crucible of modern consumerism mixed with our humble past. It’s Thanksgiving, and we’ve been celebrating it since we were kids. As familiar as it is though, we here at List25 will bet that there are some things you are ignorant about concerning one of our greatest holidays. So, in the interest of a more informed citizenry, we present you with 25 things you didn’t know about Thanksgiving:


Jingle Bells was originally a Thanksgiving song


James Pierpont originally composed the song in 1857 for children celebrating Thanksgiving at his Boston Sunday School. It gained popularity so quickly that it was repeated again at Christmas, and then again, and again, and again.




Americans aren’t the only ones to thankfully consume turkey. If you ask any of our neighbors to the north they’ll tell you Thanksgiving is actually on the second Monday of October. What we celebrate is known to them as “Yanksgiving.”


Irony in the Abbey


Given that Thanksgiving was a holiday started by pilgrims escaping religious persecution, the irony was evident when 3,500 American soldiers filled the pews of Westminster Abbey in 1942 for a Thanksgiving service. This was the first time in 900 years that a foreign army had set foot on its grounds.


Presidential Pardon

22Joyce Boghosian

Since 1947 the National Turkey Federation has given the President a turkey every year as a gift and although it has usually ended up on the dinner table, George H W Bush was the first president to officially offer it a pardon. Since then 1 lucky turkey has been offered a presidential pardon every year.


Forkless frustration

21Elin B

Imagine for a moment the frustration of trying to stab your turkey with a spoon. Although forks had been around for centuries, for some reason the pilgrims didn’t bring any with them to the New World. They did, however, use napkins so at least their hands were clean.


Benjamin Franklin was obsessed with turkeys


Benjamin Franklin thought turkeys were so American that he was upset when the Bald Eagle was chosen as the national bird instead. In a letter that he wrote to his daughter he was quoted as saying, “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,” and “though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage.”


Thomas Jefferson wasn’t

19White House Historical Association

Thomas Jefferson thought thanksgiving was the most ridiculous notion ever.


“Tom” turkey


It has been said that Ben Franklin named the male turkey “Tom” to spite Thomas Jefferson.


Sarah Joseph Hale

17Library of Congress

You can thank the same person who brought us “Mary had a Little Lamb” for bringing us Thanksgiving as a national holiday. After a 36 year campaign that consisted primarily of writing letters to presidents and congressmen, magazine editor Sarah Hale finally convinced Abraham Lincoln to officially recognize the tradition in 1863.


Average Thanksgiving calorie consumption per capita: 6000


The average American will consume between 4,000 and 6,000 calories on Thanksgiving day. A word to the wise: this requires about 8 hours of exercise to burn off.


Berry bounce


How do you tell if a cranberry is ripe? By bouncing it of course! The higher the bounce, the riper the berry.


A grand ol’ gobbler


According to Dr. Sarah Birkhold the heaviest turkey ever was 86 pounds. That’s about the size of a large German Shepard.


1/6 of annual turkey consumption in America occurs today


On Thanksgiving day America will stomach about 45 million turkeys. That is roughly 1/6 of all the turkeys consumed annually in the United States.


National Day of Mourning

12James Cridland

There are many people out there who believe Thanksgiving paints a deceptively sunny portrait of European-Native American relations and since 1970 protesters have gathered at Plymouth Rock to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.”


Largest annual source of bar sales


More than any other holiday, the eve before Thanksgiving is responsible for the most bar sales in America. This means more than New Year’s, the Super Bowl, or even St. Patty’s day. Its tough putting up with your relatives.


Origin Controversy


For such a famous holiday that got its start in recent history one would think that the story of its foundation would be relatively clear. Not so. Although 1863 was the first year of its official celebration, for many scholars the jury is still out on whether Plymouth Rock 1621 constituted the first thanksgiving or not.


Turkeys are prone to heart attacks


Evidently domesticated turkeys have very sensitive cardiovascular systems. On several occasions when the US Air Force was doing tests that required breaking the sound barrier turkeys in nearby fields would drop dead from cardiac arrest.


Turkeys are the only poultry native to the West


There is still some debate on this topic but for the most part it is accepted that turkeys are the only poultry originally from this half of the globe.


Israel consumes more turkey than any other nation


As gluttonous as America can be when it comes to turkey, it is embarrassing that such a small nation should out eat us. Israel’s per capita consumption is 11.5 kg while the United States is 7.7 kg.


America will eat the weight of Singapore in turkey today


Today Americans are going to consume 690 million pounds of turkey. That is roughly the weight of the entire country of Singapore.



5Elias Goldensky

In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt declared that America would celebrate Thanksgiving one week early in the hope that retail sales would increase, thus boosting the struggling economy. People didn’t swallow the pill, however, and one town mayor even decided to celebrate two holidays – “Franksgiving” and “Thanksgiving”.


Fast vs feast


In an ironic twist of fate, the largest feast of the year was originally meant to be the largest fast of the year. The settlers at Plymouth Rock were devout Pilgrims who gave thanks by praying and abstaining from food. It was actually the Wampanoag Indians who joined them for the 3 day celebration that introduced the feasting and games.


First TV dinner


In 1953 Swanson company severely overestimated how much turkey the American population would consume that year. With roughly 260 tons of turkey left over, one of the company’s salesman, Gerry Thomas, decided to order 5000 aluminum trays and have them filled with the leftovers, thus giving birth to the first ever TV dinners.


Domestic turkeys are too fat to mate


Most “toms” (male turkeys) that are raised for market become so fat that they can’t reproduce naturally and require artificial insemination.


Thanksgiving in Space


When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969 their first meal consisted of communion and roasted turkey. Since then thanksgiving has been celebrated onboard several spacecraft including the Mir and the Columbia.

SEE ALSO: 25 Greatest Unsolved Mysteries Ever »


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