Turkey Day is upon us, and millions of Americans will be getting together with family and friends for food, football, and fun. Lots of food, actually. The average American will ingest an estimated 4,500 calories on that one day. Here are more facts about (American) Thanksgiving. Or as we call it in Canada: Thursday.
5. It Moved Around A Bit Over The Years. The first President to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday was Lincoln, who decreed it should be on the final Thursday in November. In 1939 and 1940, Franklin Roosevelt attempted to declare it the third Thursday in order to lengthen the holiday shopping season. Many people were upset by this because families everywhere were used to having it at the end of the month. Roosevelt's critics called it "Franksgiving." You can still see a crack about it in the Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn. A cartoon turkey is confused as to which day on the calendar he should land. In response to the criticism, Congress officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to be held on the fourth Thursday in November.
4. The Founding Fathers Didn't Always Agree About It. Benjamin Franklin was fine with Thanksgiving, but believed the turkey should have been declared the national bird. He felt that the bald eagle was a scavenger and not the sort of animal that should represent America. The turkey, however, he saw as a proud, beautiful bird that people would grow to think of when thinking of America. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, thought Thanksgiving was silly. He said it was "the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard." George Washington declared America should have a "Day of Thanksgiving" in 1789. He chose November 26th, beginning the tradition of celebrating the holiday on a Thursday.
3. "Black Friday" Is Not The Busiest Shopping Day of the Year. Every year, reporters will go on about the day after Thanksgiving ("Black Friday") as being the "busiest shopping day of the year." It is not. Although there are massive sales that day, Black Friday is only one of many busy shopping days. In fact, many people deliberately avoid shopping on this day because of the huge crowds. The busiest shopping day of the year is typically the last Saturday before Christmas. Extra fact: Black Friday supposedly got its name because it is the day of the year when stores finally report being "in the black" with profits. It actually comes from Philadelphia, where city shoppers coined the term in response to the heavy traffic, random accidents, and general chaos caused by the day.
2. Thank Sarah Josepha Hale For It. Hale worked tirelessly for years during the 19th century, attempting to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Before she began her campaign, it was mostly a New England holiday and each state celebrated it different days of the year. Or not at all. Hale convinced Lincoln to make it a national holiday after trying with four other presidents first. Up until then, the only national holidays celebrated in America were Washington's Birthday and Independence Day. Christmas became a national holiday even later. Her efforts kept the holiday in the public mind and she as henceforth was seen as a patriot for her work at bringing the then-fragile union together. Hale was also known as the author of "Mary Had A Little Lamb".
1. The Parade Took a Break For The Allies. Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is watched by millions and is a tradition in homes all over the country. It originally began in 1924 and has continued every year since, except from 1942 to 1945. The rubber and especially the helium used in the enormous parade balloons was needed for the war effort during WWII. Extra fact: The balloon that has made the most appearances in the parade: Snoopy.
Now you know a few more random tidbits to bring up at the dinner table this Thanksgiving. With all this great knowledge to discuss with friends and family, there's no need for political arguments or telling your parents how they ruined your life. Just sit back, have some venison (the most common meat at the original Thanksgiving) and enjoy your weekend! See you at the mall!
Ward Anderson is a comedian, author, and one half of the SiriusXM talk radio program "Ward and Al". His first novel, I'll Be Here All Week, will be released in May, 2014.