20 Things You Didn't Know About Thanksgiving

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20 Things You Didn't Know About Thanksgiving
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20 Things You Didn't Know About Thanksgiving

Use these fun facts to impress at the dinner table on Turkey Day!

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The first Thanksgiving dinner took place in Plymouth Colony in October (not November), 1621.

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50 English colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indian men attended the meeting. Very few women, if any, were present.

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The first Thanksgiving was a three-day affair! According to Sarah Lohman, a food historian who works at Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan, “The people who had the ‘first Thanksgiving’ didn’t really think of it as such. It was the end of the first growing season in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the Puritans threw a harvest festival to celebrate. The men went ‘fowling,’ or hunting wild birds. A large group of Wampanoag showed up with five deer. Everyone had a party for three days. They ate and shot guns for fun.”

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Thanksgiving wasn’t actually a unique celebration when it occurred. Long before the pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Europeans, Native Americans and other cultures gathered for feasts to honor the harvest season and give thanks for their food and existence.

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George Washington advocated for Thanksgiving to be an official holiday on October 3, 1789.

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The holiday didn’t become official until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863. He might have been inspired to do so by magazine editor Sarah Josephna Hale, who suggested that Thanksgiving become a holiday. Lincoln originally decreed that the holiday would fall on the last Thursday of the month.

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Every year the U.S. President pardons a turkey. Abraham Lincoln started the turkey-pardoning trend.

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Staples like green bean casserole would not have appeared on the original Thanksgiving menu. Jennifer Monac, a spokesperson for the living-history museum Plimoth Plantation told National Geographic that the guests probably would have consumed meats like venison, birds, fish, lobster and clams. They would have also enjoyed nuts, wheat flour, pumpkin, carrots, peas and squashes, too.

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is responsible for the modern date of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. He established the date in 1940.

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Since November can have four or five Thursdays, retailers urged Roosevelt to make the holiday on the third Thursday to ensure that consumers would have enough time to shop for the holidays. Roosevelt did so and confusion ensued. Critics of Roosevelt claimed that he was giving into the big businesses and deemed the holiday “Franksgiving"

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The American south viewed Thanksgiving as a “Yankee” holiday at first and didn’t celebrate it. After the Civil War, the states became united once again and Thanksgiving was recognized everywhere. Good thing, too, because the south contributed classic dishes like pecan pie and sweet potatoes.

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In 2010, it was estimated that 42.2 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend.

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About 46 million turkeys were eaten in 2011 for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Minnesota produces the most turkeys in the US. North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana are also top producers.

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Farmers produced about 768 million pounds of cranberries in 2012. Cranberries are native to America and the biggest producing states are Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

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According to scientists, the tryptophan in turkeys isn’t the primary cause of post-dinner drowsiness. They cite alcohol and the amount of calories consumed instead.

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Nearly 88 percent of Americans say that they eat turkey at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.

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The average weight of a Thanksgiving turkey is 15 pounds. In 2007, Americans consumed about 690 million pounds of turkey!

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The biggest pumpkin pie ever baked was 2,020 pounds, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was over 12 feet long and was made up of 900 pounds of pumpkin, 155 dozen eggs, 300 pounds of sugar, 62 gallons of evaporated milk, 3.5 pounds of salt, seven pounds of cinnamon, two pounds of pumpkin spice and 250 pounds of pie crust.

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The first football game that took place on Thanksgiving Day was in 1934, when the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears with 26,000 spectators watching.

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Thanksgiving is incomplete without equal parts gratitude, history and food coma.

Certain legends have morphed into fiction and the origins of the meal itself can become as opaque as a tasty bowl of mashed potatoes. If you've ever wondered how Thanksgiving came to be or who established its date, you're in luck. We've rounded up some perfect tidbits to slip into Thanksgiving dinner conversation.

Check out the slideshow above for 20 things you didn't know about Thanksgiving.

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