Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November. The holiday dates back to 1621, when Puritans, who had just enjoyed a bountiful harvest, showed their gratitude to the Native Americans for their help by hosting a feast to give thanks. It eventually became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month, never on the occasional fifth Thursday, to encourage earlier holiday shopping.
The Thanksgiving feast almost always includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, corn, and pumpkin.
Here are some fun facts about Thanksgiving:
- The preliminary estimate of turkeys raised in the United States in 2009 is 250 million.
- The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2009 is 709 million pounds.
- Benjamin Franklin thought the wild turkey was so American it should have been chosen as our national symbol rather than the eagle.
- It is common for U.S. astronauts who spend Thanksgiving in space to celebrate with a rehydrated turkey dinner.
- There are three places in the United States named after the holiday’s traditional main course. Turkey, TX; Turkey Creek, LA; and Turkey, NC. There also are nine townships around the country named Turkey– three in Kansas alone.
- There are eight places and townships in the United States that are named Cranberry or some spelling variation of the red, acidic berry (e.g., Cranbury, NJ).
- The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a ceremony that has taken place at the White House since 1947. Every year two turkeys are selected and given to the President for his Thanksgiving dinner. However, since 1989 the turkeys have received Presidential pardons, sparing their lives.
If you would like to view more Thanksgiving facts, please visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s Thanksgiving Day web page.