Thanksgiving facts for kids and adults are the topic of our blog post today!
Thanksgiving is a holiday with rich historical roots and traditions that vary from family to family and even state to state. From the myth-laden story of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth to modern day traditions like the Macy’s Parade, Thanksgiving is a holiday that invites us to dig deeper.
Whether you’re a trivia buff, a school teacher searching for classroom material, or a parent wanting to share some fun facts with the kids around the dinner table, this list of Thanksgiving facts will not only entertain but also educate.
Related: Thanksgiving Day Activities
Thanksgiving Facts for Kids and Adults
Here’s a list of some interesting Thanksgiving facts for kids and adults:
The First Thanksgiving Lasted Three Days: Contrary to popular belief, the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 extended over three days, not just one. Source
No Turkey at the First Thanksgiving: The menu was more likely to include venison, fish, and shellfish rather than turkey. Source
Sarah Josepha Hale Campaigned for Thanksgiving: The woman who wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb” lobbied for 17 years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Source
Lincoln Made It a National Holiday: President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Source
Football Tradition: The Detroit Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day since 1934. Source
Thanksgiving in Space: Astronauts aboard Skylab celebrated Thanksgiving in space in 1973. Source
Parade Beginnings: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started in 1924 and initially featured live animals like elephants. Source
Pardoning the Turkey: The tradition of the U.S. President pardoning a turkey started officially with George H.W. Bush in 1989, though some say it goes back to Lincoln. Source
Canadian Thanksgiving: Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, too, but it’s on the second Monday in October. Source
TV Dinners Origin: The idea for Swanson TV dinners came from a post-Thanksgiving surplus of 260 tons of turkey. Source
Travel Peaks: Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the United States. Source
Shopping Frenzy: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Source
Wild vs. Domestic Turkey: Wild turkeys can fly, but domesticated ones can’t due to selective breeding for size. Source
The Wishbone Tradition: Breaking the turkey’s wishbone is a long-standing tradition for good luck. Source
Pumpkin Pie Popularity: About 50 million pumpkin pies are consumed every Thanksgiving. Source
Different Names: Male turkeys are called “toms,” females are “hens,” and babies are “poults.” Source
First to Celebrate: Some historians believe that Spanish explorers in Texas held the first Thanksgiving in America in 1541. Source
Volunteering Spikes: Thanksgiving sees a significant increase in community service and volunteering. Source
Regional Dishes: Traditional Thanksgiving dishes can vary widely depending on the region. Source
Plymouth and Plimoth: The historical site of the first Thanksgiving is spelled “Plimoth,” according to the Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum. Source
First in the New World: Berkeley Plantation in Virginia claims to be the site of the real “First Thanksgiving” in America, dating back to 1619. Source
Turkey Talk: A group of turkeys can be referred to as a “rafter” or a “gobble.” Source
Minnesota Turkey: Minnesota is the U.S. state that raises the most turkeys. Source
Not Just the USA: The island of Grenada also celebrates Thanksgiving, but for different reasons and on a different day. Source
Size Matters: The largest turkey ever raised weighed 86 pounds, about the size of a German Shepherd! Source
Benjamin Franklin’s Favorite: Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey, not the bald eagle, to be the national bird of the United States. Source
Cranberry Production: Wisconsin leads in U.S. cranberry production, providing over half of all cranberries. Source
Native Foods: Corn, beans, and squash were known as the “three sisters” by Native American groups and were mainstays at early Thanksgivings. Source
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah: In 2013, Hanukkah overlapped with Thanksgiving, an event that won’t happen again for more than 76,000 years. Source
Pilgrim’s Meal: Pilgrims ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers; forks were not introduced until 10 years later. Source
Related: Thanksgiving Gift Ideas
That was an extensive list of Thanksgiving facts that stretch from the historical to the quirky. I made sure to include links to authoritative sources where you can read more about of these Thanksgiving facts. As we gather around the table this year, let’s remember that Thanksgiving is as much about gratitude as it is about learning and sharing. If you’ve enjoyed this deep dive into Thanksgiving trivia, don’t forget to swing by my Thanksgiving resources section for more enriching and fun holiday materials. Happy Thanksgiving!
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