In just a few short days, families across America will gather to gives thanks, eat until their bellies nearly burst, and enjoy football games during one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. Thanksgiving marks the official start of the holiday season for most people, whether they regard that fact with eager anticipation or marked dread.
Here are 10 little-known facts about this holiday that have nothing to do with the pilgrims, the Mayflower, or pumpkin pie:
- If it had been up to Benjamin Franklin, the national bird of America would have been the turkey instead of the eagle. In a letter to his daughter from 1794, Franklin wrote that "[The eagle] is a Bird of bad moral Character", while "the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird...a Bird of Courage".
- According to a survey, 12% of Thanksgiving and Black Friday bargain-hunters have reported shopping holiday sales while under the influence of alcohol.
- Thanksgiving wasn't made a national holiday until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, thanks to the efforts of an American woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale spent nearly 20 years campaigning for Thanksgiving to become a nationally recognized holiday, writing annual editorials, writing letters to congressmen from every state, and sending a steady stream of letters to the presidential office. Her campaign spanned five presidencies before Lincoln agreed to her request. Hale is also well known for having authored dozens of children's books and nursery rhymes, including the very popular "Mary Had A Little Lamb".
- The average discount on Black Friday sales in 2014 was found to be less than 5% according to the deal-hunting website ShopAdvisor
- Turkey was the first meal eaten on the moon, enjoyed by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin after their lunar landing in July of 1969.
- TV dinners were first invented after the Thanksgiving of 1953, when the food company Swanson had underestimated the number of frozen turkeys they would sell by 26 tons. To avoid such debacles in the future, the company came up with the idea to slice up the turkey meat and package it with other food trimmings on the side: and the first TV dinner was born.
- According to Roto-Rooters, Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. This fact makes sense when you consider how many toilet systems across the country have to grapple with the aftermath of a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
- There are two American cities named Turkey: Turkey, Texas and Turkey, North Carolina. There is also Turkey Creek, LA; Turkey Creek, AZ; and two townships in Pennsylvania named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.
- The tradition of Thanksgiving football began in 1876, starting with the game between Yale and Princeton universities.
- The modern domesticated turkey is unable to mate naturally. Because white meat is the most popular part of the turkey to eat, turkey farmers have bred the birds to have large, oversized breasts, which gets in the way and obstructs the male bird from mounting the female. Most turkey farms have to rely on artificial insemination for this reason.