This post originally ran in November 2015. I’ve dusted it off with a few minor revisions for 2016.
Thanksgiving Day is knocking at our door, as it pushes aside the hanging wreath and the Santa sleigh on the porch. It’s becoming the norm to fast track past this November holiday as retailers start pushing pumpkins off the shelves before October 31 and filling them with tinsel, trees, gift tags and all things Christmas. Turkey Day gets half a shelf by Housewares, if it’s lucky, where you’ll find a few fall-looking centerpieces, owls, and autumn colored tablecloths marked at 30 percent off. I still love turkey day, and in the spirit of the holiday, I offer up 10 facts worth knowing and sharing, when you sit down to turkey dinner this year. let’s face it. We need a topic besides politics. And, who knows, start spewing out a few of these facts and that crazy, drunken uncle might not be the only one the family focuses on this time around.
- The Plymouth Pilgrims were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving Day – It all happened at Plymouth, Mass. Their leader, Governor William Bradford organized the first harvest feast in 1621. He invited the neighboring Wampanoag Indians to the feast that lasted for three days.
- TV dinners have Thanksgiving to thank – In 1953, someone at Swanson seriously misjudged the number of frozen turkeys it would sell that Thanksgiving — by 26 TONS! A Swanson salesman with a vision came up with a revolutionary plan. Order 5,000 aluminum trays, slice up the meat, include the traditional trimmings on the side, and voilà,the first TV dinner was born!
- Plumbers aren’t shopping on Black Friday; they’re working – While many of our households are filled with more guests than normal and there’s plenty of gastrointestinal issues among our clans that tax our toilets, it’s not just the abodes requiring a plumber, it’s often our kitchen sinks and garbage disposals needing 911. This year give our plumbers a break! Go easy on the sink and haul that turkey carcass to the trash.
- Not all turkeys gobble – As kids, we all learn how to trace our hand to draw a turkey and how to make the gobble, gobble sound. If you bought into the fact that all turkeys gobble, you’ve been misled. Only male turkeys gobble. Female turkeys make sounds, but theirs sound more like chirps and clucks. Gobble is an odd word, isn’t it?
- The Eagle almost lost out in being our national bird – In a letter Ben Franklin wrote to his daughter he accused the eagle of having “bad moral character” while he thought the turkey was a much more respectable bird. Oh Ben, maybe you withstood a few too many shocks while you were experimenting with electricity.
- Lambs and turkeys have something in common – When Abe Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, it was thanks to the tireless campaigning of a writer and editor named Sarah Josepha Hale. She’s most famous for the authoring of the nursery rhyme, “Mary had a Little Lamb.”
- Thanksgiving experienced some date confusion between 1939-41 – In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving one week earlier than normal, believing it would bolster retail sales during one of the final years of the Great Depression. This did not sit well with many, causing protests and unrest, and the coining of the term, Franksgiving. In 1941, a joint resolution was passed by Congress, solidifying Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November.
- Tryptophan in turkey does NOT make you tired – This naturally occurring amino acid that is found in many other foods is not the culprit for your coma. Knock back a few alcoholic beverages, load up on a helping of every dish on the table, wash it down with Pumpkin pie, and you’re bound to get sleepy. Blaming tryptophan sounds way better than admitting you overindulged. But, if you want to stick with that as your excuse, I am not one to judge!
- No women, no cranberries, no pies…and maybe no turkeys – There’s numerous accounts of what was served during this feast. From all historical accounts there were no pies and no cranberries. If there were any women, it sounds like there were three or four. And, many writing talks about fowl, but there is no confirmation that turkey was the bird of choice. I think this gives us all carte blanche to fix absolutely anything we want on the big day. I for one, dislike the canned or cranberry sauce. For the most part, nobody ever eats it. So, why do we keep insisting cranberries are on the menu?
- Towns take the name of Turkey – This one’s for that trivia game you find yourself in during this upcoming holiday. For the record, there are three towns in the U.S. that take their names from the traditional Thanksgiving bird. They are Turkey, Texas (pop. 465); Turkey Creek, Louisiana (pop. 363); and Turkey, North Carolina (pop. 270). One common theme of these turkey towns: their populations total less than the number of individuals in Costco at any one time on a Saturday.
Now you’re set with the facts. Go forth and spew your Thanksgiving knowledge at this year’s feast. Take over the focus from any political discussions or from that drunken uncle or crazy aunt. I’m sure they could use a little less attention.
Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble. Gobble. Chirp. Cluck.