Did you know? - Fascinating facts and useful trivia factoids about people, products and places

Thanksgiving facts

Thanksgiving held twice in 1815

Thanksgiving was a centuries-old tradition held by most cultures around the world. After the autumn harvest, communities held 3-day-long feasts, sharing meat, bread and beer. Today, Thanksgiving is known best as an US public holiday.

The first US Thanksgiving was held between 21 September and 11 November 1621 in Massachusetts by 50 Plymouth Pilgrims and their 90 Wampanoag neighbours. After that, Thanksgiving was held fairly randomly. Thanksgiving days were proclaimed annually by the US Congress from 1777 to 1783 which, except for 1782, were all celebrated in December. George Washington declared Thanksgiving in 1789 and 1795, and John Adams in 1798 and 1799. James Madison declared Thanksgiving twice in 1815. None of these were celebrated in the autumn.

The next national Thanksgiving was declared only in April 1862, by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, he declared Thanksgiving for 6 August, and for the last Thursday in November. He went on to declare a similar Thanksgiving observance in 1864, establishing a precedent that was followed by Andrew Johnson in 1865 and by every subsequent president.

After a few deviations of the day of celebration – Thanksgiving was held on 7 December in 1865, and 18 November in 1869 – the last Thursday in November was proclaimed as the national Thanksgiving day, but still not a officially holiday. Thanksgiving remained a custom unsanctified by law until President Roosevelt signed a bill on 26 November 1941 that established the fourth Thursday in November as the national Thanksgiving public holiday.

Turkey is the traditional dish for the Thanksgiving feast. In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations. There is no official reason or declaration for the use of turkey. They just happened to be the most plentiful meat available at the time of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, starting the tradition.

Before
The Before Turkey

After
The After Turkey

Canada’s Thanksgiving is held on the second Monday in October.

Israel has the highest consumption of turkey per capita: 12 kg (27 lb).