ServiceOne loves Thanksgiving. It’s a time for turkey, pumpkin pie, and gathering with loved ones. But there’s far more to this distinctly American holiday than you might guess. Beyond the traditional feasting and football games, Thanksgiving boasts a treasure trove of obscure and fascinating facts.
ONE: The First Thanksgiving Wasn't the Feast We Know Now
Contrary to popular belief, the first Thanksgiving in 1621 wasn't all about a lavish feast. Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered to celebrate their successful harvest, but their menu was quite different from today's standards. Venison, duck, seafood, and corn gruel were on the menu. While turkey was an indigenous bird, there is no historical record of it being eaten at the first Thanksgiving, and there wasn’t a pumpkin pie in sight!
TWO: With the help of Squanto…
Every child hears the story of the Squanto the friendly Indian who helped the Pilgrims survive by teaching them how to plant crops.
Ever wonder how Squanto learned to speak English?
Squanto, a Patuxet Indian, had a fascinating backstory He’d been kidnapped by early English explorers led by George Weyworth in 1605. Squanto was forced on a ship as a captive and taken back to England where he learned English. Eventually, he made it back to America with Captain John Smith.
Scholars think Squanto was captured a second time by Captain Thomas Hunt and taken to Spain with a group of 26 Native Americans. There he was housed with Spanish Catholic monks who wanted to educate and convert the Indians. Eventually, Squanto convinced them that he should return to America. He came back in 1619 and was there when the Pilgrims landed on November 11, 1620.
THREE: Let’s talk turkey!
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Let’s talk turkey.”
The first record of the phrase was recorded in 1842 although the spoken phrase originated much earlier. It means “to speak openly or frankly.”
Some scholars say that there’s a story about a Native American and a white man who went hunting together, bringing down multiple birds of different species. Buzzards, crows, and turkeys were part of the haul. When they were done hunting, the white man said, “You take the crow. I’ll take the turkey, or I’ll take the turkey and you keep the crow.” The Native ‘American said, “You’re not talking turkey to me.” This meant that the white man shouldn’t talk about keeping the better bird for himself.
Another theory is that the “talking turkey” phrase was coined when white settlers and native Americans conversed about the business of buying and selling wild turkeys, approaching each other with the question, “You come to talk turkey?”
FOUR: Thanksgiving is connected to “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
Thanksgiving might not exist without the work of Sarah Josepha Hale.
Sarah Josepha Hale is best known for what she wrote. She’s the author of the children’s rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb." She was also a staunch believer in celebrating our heritage. Hale tirelessly campaigned for Thanksgiving's official recognition, and in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday.
FIVE: Thanksgiving Was a Date-Hopping Holiday
Before Lincoln's proclamation, Thanksgiving didn't have a set date. Different states celebrated on various days, which caused a lot of confusion. Thanks to Lincoln's decree, it's now observed on the fourth Thursday in November in every state of the nation.
SIX: Tofurkey and Thanksgiving Turduckens
While turkey remains the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving feasts, alternative options have gained popularity in recent years. Tofurkey (a tofu-based turkey substitute) and Turducken (a chicken stuffed inside a duck, inside a turkey) offer unique choices for vegetarians and adventurous eaters. Some families have done deep-fried turkey in recent years, and other families opt for a non-poultry-based meal, serving ham or prime rib.
SEVEN: Thanksgiving Day Football
For many families, a favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition is sitting around and watching football.
That tradition was started by The Detroit Lions in 1934.
That first game in 1934 was planned as a marketing move. The Lions wanted to attract more fans into the stadium and thought that more people would be able to come to the game on the holiday. It worked.
EIGHT: How the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Really Got Started:
Surprisingly, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t start with Macy’s!
Four years earlier, the Gimbel Brothers Department store in Philadelphia started a Thanksgiving parade featuring 50 people, 15 cars, and a fireman costumed as Santa Claus. It was a good idea because people enjoyed it and started thinking about Christmas. The people at Macy’s decided to copy the marketing ploy.
In 1924, the employees at Macy’s thought they’d boost Christmas sales by doing their own parade. They advertised the event as “a Marathon of Mirth.” It began as a procession of employees dressed in whimsical costumes. Soon, animals from the Central Park Zoo were added, but the animals made the streets messy, often scared children, and didn’t like being handled during the whole six-mile parade route. Eventually, animals were exchanged for character balloons.
Over the next century, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade grew into the massive annual event that we know today.
NINE: Those Crazy Cranberries!
Do you need to entertain a passel of preschoolers while you’re prepping Thanksgiving dinner?
Ask them how they know if a cranberry is ripe!
Tell them that a cranberry is ripe when it bounces.
For real. Cranberries are ready for harvest when they bounce because they have small air pockets inside. This interesting tidbit adds a playful element to your Thanksgiving preparation, but you’ll probably want to limit each child to one cranberry or make them promise to eat a bite of cranberry salad if they get to bounce one!
TEN: Thanksgiving's Influence on Black Friday:
The day after Thanksgiving, now known as Black Friday, marks the official start of the holiday shopping season. The phrase was originally used by policemen in Philadelphia when they complained about the masses of people coming into the city to shop. It was a dismal, “black” day because they had to control the crowds.
The phrase caught on, but to take away the negative connotation, retailers in the 1960s began promoting a different meaning. The day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday” was the point at which they began to turn a profit for the year, moving from the "red" to the "black."
ELEVEN: Thanksgiving leads to Brown Friday, too
Everybody knows about Black Friday, but not everyone knows about “Brown Friday.”
Brown Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest for plumbers across the nation as they are called into homes to clean up the problems of the Thanksgiving festivities the day before.
Clogged and backed up sinks. Broken garbage disposals. Toilets that won’t flush. You name it.
(ServiceOne is here for you on Brown Friday! We can also install a new garbage disposal for you now until December 31, 2023, and give you a $50 OFF installation discount!)
TWELVE: The World's Largest Pumpkin Pie:
In 2010, the town of New Bremen, Ohio, earned a spot in the Guinness World Records by baking the world's largest pumpkin pie. This colossal dessert weighed a whopping 3,699 pounds and measured over 20 feet in diameter!
More than 1200 pounds of pumpkin, 525 pounds of sugar, 233 dozen eggs, and 440 sheets of dough later, their pie was baked.
ServiceOne Gives Thanks For You
The team at ServiceOne enjoys the holidays, and we like having a bit of fun with these crazy trivia facts that reveal the rich history and quirky traditions behind the holiday.
As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, you can share these little-known tidbits to add spark to your celebration. From parades and football games to bouncing cranberries and giant pies, Thanksgiving is a holiday with cool traditions and interesting backstories.
ServiceOne wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving, filled with newfound knowledge, delicious food, well-wishes, and the best turkey talk ever!
We are truly thankful for you.