Fun facts about Thanksgiving

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** CORRECTS SPELLING OF PHOENIX IN FIRST SENTENCE ** A Red Phoenix Turkey puts on a display for a hen at Heirloom Heritage Farms in Spanaway, Wash., on Monday, Nov. 23, 2009. The 'major caruncle' hanging under his beak can change color to fiery red to attract a mate. He also puffs himself up and creates a fan with his tail feathers to get attention. This Thanksgiving season he is safe on at the eight-acre farm, owned by Dawn Turbyfill, a retired Air Force radar technician from Wisconsin. It is dedicated to heritage breed conservation of Turkeys, Chickens, Geese, Ducks and Sheep. (AP Photo/The News Tribune, Dean J. Koepfler)

The first Thanksgiving

The Plymouth Pilgrims were the first to celebrate the Thanksgiving.

They celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day at Plymouth, Mass.

The Wampanoag Indians were the people who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land.

The Pilgrim leader, Gov. William Bradford, had organized the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. He invited the neighboring Wampanoag Indians to the feast.

The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted three days.

Mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, popcorn, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberries were NOT foods present on the first Thanksgiving’s feast table.

Lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese are thought to have made up the first Thanksgiving feast.

The pilgrims didn’t use forks; they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers.

Thanksgiving facts throughout history

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird of the United States.

Sarah Josepha Hale, an American magazine editor and the author of the popular nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” persuaded Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Abraham Lincoln issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.

The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920s.

In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would take place on November 23, not November 30, as a way to spur economic growth and extend the Christmas shopping season.

Congress passed a law on Dec. 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He “pardons” it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.

Thanksgiving today

In the United States, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations.

Each year, the average American eats somewhere between 16 and 18 pounds of turkey.

Californians are the largest consumers of turkey in the United States.

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. Although, Thanksgiving is widely considered an American holiday, it is also celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada.

Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, where it is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season.

The turkey itself

The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.

The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.

A 15-pound turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat.

The five most popular ways to serve leftover turkey is as a sandwich, in stew, chili or soup, casseroles and as a burger.

Turkey has more protein than chicken or beef.

Turkeys will have 3,500 feathers at maturity.

Male turkeys gobble. Hens do not. They make a clucking noise.

Commercially raised turkeys cannot fly.

Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks.

A large group of turkeys is called a flock, a rafter or a gang.

Turkeys have poor night vision.

It takes 75 to 80 pounds of feed to raise a 30-pound tom turkey.

A 16-week-old turkey is called a fryer. A five to seven month old turkey is called a young roaster.