20 Fun Facts About Thanksgiving

Get in the Thanksgiving spirit by learning more about America's favorite turkey celebration. Quiz friends and family on these fun facts before you dig in or take them on the road as a festive travel activity. See how many of your crew are holiday geniuses and add a few facts of your own. Happy Turkey Day! 

  1. The sound of the season is gobble, gobble - but only if you are a male turkey. Female turkeys make themselves heard with cackles, purrs and yelps. 
  2. Sing a few lines of "Jingle Bells" before sitting down for your fantastic feast. Did you know it was originally a song to celebrate Thanksgiving?
  3. Zoo animals got a long-awaited reprieve from walking in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927 when Felix the Cat took to the air as the first large-scale balloon. The size of the balloons were finally regulated in 1997 after a few notable mishaps and close calls. 
  4. If you and the crew head over the river and through the woods at Thanksgiving, you are not alone. The days before and following the November holiday are the busiest travel days of the year. In 2021, AAA predicted 53.4 million people traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020.
  5. There is no rest for the weary - or plumbers. These protectors of the pipes log their busiest day on Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving. Pro tip: Oil and kitchen drains often mean disaster.
  6. When you hit the road to walk or run the local Turkey Trot, take a moment to remember the meager six runners who battled it out in 1896 at the first fowl race hosted by the YMCA in Buffalo, NY.

  1. Can't get enough Thanksgiving? If you traveled to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Plantation in 1621 you could join the fun and feasting for three whole days. However, the food spread might look a bit different. The first gathering most likely included seal, lobster, eel and oysters. 
  2. You can thank Sarah Josepha Hale for the food packed holiday. Sarah convinced President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday after a 17-year letter writing campaign. Whew!
  3. Did you know Thanksgiving inspired the first frozen dinner? In 1953 a food distribution employee overestimated the number of turkeys to order and was left with 260 tons of frozen birds! The fast-thinking salesman ordered aluminum trays and recruited fellow workers to assemble premade, frozen dinners that could stand the test of time. 
  4. Eat till you burst, then shop till you drop! The post-Thanksgiving buying frenzy now known as Black Friday came into existence with the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924 that kicked off the holiday shopping season.
  1. Want to eat your turkey dinner in a town named Turkey? There are four places in the U.S. where you can do just that - Turkey, Texas; Turkey Creek, Louisiana; Turkey, North Carolina and Turkey Creek, Arizona.
  2. If you find yourself in serious turkey trouble, call the fine people at 1-800-BUTTERBALL and get help saving the day (and the meal). Every November and December more than 100,000 people call the hotline for assistance.
  3. Thanksgiving and football go together like mashed potatoes and butter. Since 1934, the Detroit Lions have played every Thanksgiving. The only years they were off the field was during World War II. Touchdown! 
  4. Let it go! The 2013 Disney animated musical "Frozen" earned $93 million domestically, making it the number one Thanksgiving release of all time. 
  5. What's in a name? Adult male turkeys are called gobblers and average around 18-22 pounds with a wingspan up to five feet. Adult female turkeys are called hens.

  1. If you can't imagine a Thanksgiving without stuffing - thank the Romans. The delicious dish dates back to the Roman Empire and incorporated stuffed chicken, rabbit, pork and other ingredients of the day. In 1972, Stove Top gave us a break from all the work with the boxed version. Hooray!
  2. Just because you are on a space mission doesn't mean you have to miss the most delicious holiday of the year. According to NASA, the first Thanksgiving in space was celebrated on November 22, 1973, by the astronauts in Skylab 4. Since then, astronauts aboard the space station have been celebrating the holiday every November. 
  3. For a few years in United States history, you and the family could celebrate Thanksgiving twice. In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the holiday to the second Thursday in November allowing for added holiday shopping time to aid with economic recovery. While 32 states said "yes", 16 did not, which meant two celebrations until 1941 when Congress set the official date as the last Thursday in November.
  4. Want a selfie with a HUGE turkey? Head to Frazee, Minnesota. This little town is home to Big Tom, a 20-foot turkey statue that stands as the "Largest monument to the Turkey", according to the World Record Academy. At 5,000 pounds, that would be a lot of leftovers! 
  5. No Thanksgiving is complete without watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving." The movie based on the popular comic strip first aired November 20, 1973 on CBS and was the third holiday special for the Peanuts gang after "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in 1965 and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" in 1966.  
Eat up, be thankful and celebrate with friends and family during this special time of year. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C. She gratefully shares her life, home and heart with her daughter and their dog.