It’s that special time of year again -- time for football, family and ridiculous amounts of food. Oh, and it’s also the time to give thanks for football, family and food. Especially football.
Once you’ve put away that last bite of turkey and loosened your belt a few notches, I'm sure you'll have a tiny bit of room to ingest some Thanksgiving knowledge:
1. The first Thanksgiving was a harvest feast in Plymouth, Mass. It's widely acknowledged that in 1621, Pilgrims from the Mayflower broke bread with local Native Americans -- the Wampanoag Indians, to be exact. This three-day feast later became known as Thanksgiving. Everyone knows this one, right?
What some folks may not know:
- The only documentation of that feast comes from two brief passages from the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow.
- The second Thanksgiving celebration was held in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought.
2. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday. Lincoln must have loved him some turkey, because in October 1863 he made the fourth Thursday in November a national holiday.
He probably clocks in as America’s second-greatest turkey-lover, right behind Ben Franklin, who tried to make the turkey our national bird. If that had happened, maybe we’d be eating bald eagle every November.
In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to move Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November. He hoped the move would help retail sales during the Great Depression -- the start of the Black Friday tradition? When that didn't fly, he conceded and signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of the month.
But the aforementioned presidents weren’t the only people to have a major impact on Thanksgiving…
3. The author of “Mary had a Little Lamb” helped make Thanksgiving possible. Sarah Josepha Hale, an American writer and editor, campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday for 36 years. Lincoln heeded her request in 1863 (see #2).
And yeah, she also wrote “Mary had a Little Lamb.”
4. In the United States, folks eat around 46 million turkeys each year at Thanksgiving. According to the National Turkey Federation, 244 million turkeys were raised in 2010, and roughly one-fifth of those were eaten in one day -- and possibly in sandwiches over the following few days as well.
Ninety-one percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, and the average weight of a Turkey Day turkey is 15 pounds.
There is hope for a few turkeys, however. Each year -- since the mid-20th century -- the president has “pardoned” one or two Thanksgiving turkeys. The forever-grateful birds are then sent to a farm to live out their days in retirement.
5. The Detroit Lions are as Thanksgiving as cranberry sauce. The first time the Lions played on Thanksgiving Day was in 1934 -- seven years before Congress passed the law that made it a national holiday (before that, the decree came from the president).
Since ’34, there have been only five occasions that the Lions did not play on Thanksgiving. In fact, they’ve been playing on Thanksgiving before games were even televised, which began in 1956.
I’m no Lions fan, but I’ll be watching, and eating, and giving thanks today.
Author’s Note: Information provided by history.com.