It’s weird to think that discovering new information about a holiday, of all things, is making my jaw drop. But it’s totally happening. After discovering a few mind-blowing Thanksgiving facts just recently, I'm not sure what to think about Turkey Day. They’re conversation starters, for sure, and will definitely come in handy when dining with your family. But they’re also simply worthy of an OMG—and no, that’s not an overstatement.
These are pieces of information you wouldn’t have learned even if you had paid attention in history class. There might be a few things you thought you knew on this list that are totally wrong, and perhaps a few new pieces of information that change how you see this holiday altogether. Yes, they're that mind-blowing. So gather ‘round, folks: it’s time to pull back the curtains on this traditional holiday and learn a few random, but totally intriguing, facts that’ll give you the real lowdown on Thanksgiving.
1. The First Thanksgiving Actually Lasted 3 Days
According to Sarah Lohman, a food historian who spoke to Bon Appetit about what really happened at the first Thanksgiving, the occasion was actually about celebrating the harvest, and involved days of heading out to hunt several of the foodstuffs that ended up on the table. And you thought one evening with the relatives was exhausting.
2. Ben Franklin Wanted The Turkey To Be The National Bird
Apparently the founding father argued that the turkey was way better than the bald eagle. History.com dug up the fact that he wrote to his daughter in a letter stating it was “a much more respectable bird,” “a true original Native of America,” and “though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage.” It’s definitely better this didn’t happen—it would probably feel a little weird and unpatriotic to sit down and eat the national bird every year.
3. There Were 140 Guests At The First Thanksgiving
It turns out the first Thanksgiving was a legitimate bash. Featuring fifty pilgrims (about half of the original colonists) and ninety native Americans, History.com notes the original celebration was far larger than the family affair it is today (unless, of course, you happen to have a really large family.)
4. There Were No Forks At The First Thanksgiving
In an interview for Archaeology, historian Kathleen Curtin points out that because forks didn’t really catch on in America until the eighteenth century, the first Thanksgiving was eaten with knives, spoons, and fingers. Talk about casual dining.
5. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Used To Feature Live Animals
Yes, there were days before the epic Snoopy balloon. Back in 1924 when the parade first started, History.com notes that when Macy’s employees began the traditional event, it featured a whole menagerie of animals including camels, goats, donkeys, lions, elephants, bears, and tigers. Balloons didn’t appear in the parade until three years later in 1927.
6. Thanksgiving Gave Birth To The TV Dinner
And it was all because of a mistake. The Smithsonian uncovered the history behind the TV dinner, which was born out of one salesman buying way too many Thanksgiving turkeys, to the point where he had 260 tons of frozen birds sitting in railway cars. Luckily, genius Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas stepped in, who was inspired by the trays of pre-prepared food served on airlines to create what became known as the TV dinner. And it was a hit: in the first year they arrived on the scene, ten million of them sold.
7. Canada Celebrates Thanksgiving, Too
Who knew, right? National Geographic shared the fact that Canada has their own Thanksgiving based on explorer Martin Frobisher's giving thanks for his safe arrival in what is now New Brunswick. The official establishment of Canada’s Thanksgiving was inspired by the one in the United States, but the date was moved to October because it was considered way too cold to do it later in the year up there. Oh, Canada.
8. Thanksgiving Eve Is Said To Be The Biggest Drinking Night Of The Year
So much so, in fact, that it’s been given its own name—Black Wednesday (or “Blackout” Wednesday as it is known in some circles.) Some suggest the night before Thanksgiving might be such a big drinking holiday because no one works the day before, college students are meeting up with old high school friends, or just the pure boredom of being at home. Whatever the reasons may be, the data supports these theories, as Thanksgiving Eve has had a sharp uptick in drunk driving fatalities, and Thanksgiving itself has won out over New Year’s and Saint Patrick’s Day to become the most dangerous holiday of the year for drivers. Definitely worth keeping in mind.
9. Pilgrims Didn’t Actually Wear Black & White Clothing With Buckles
According to History.com, black and white were only worn on formal occasions, and buckles weren’t even in fashion at the time of the first Thanksgiving. Instead, women dressed in red, earthy green, brown, blue, violet, and gray, and men wore clothing in white, beige, black, earthy green, and brown. Looks like we should change some of those coloring books.