Jewish Journal

Twelve weird Thanksgiving facts

by Julie Bien

November 27, 2013 | 11:25 am

1. Since 1934, The Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving                                                     

Detroit radio station owner, George A. Richards, bought the Lions (then known as the Spartans) and moved the team from Ohio to Detroit in 1934. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw to a game was 15,000 people. Richards was desperate to find a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its new football team, so he came up with the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards' radio station was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he was able to convince NBC to broadcast the Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide. The Lions played the undefeated Chicago Bears (who went on to win the Western Division) and sold out their 26,000-seat stadium. Ever since then, the Lions play on Thanksgiving.

2. The first TV dinner was Thanksgiving leftovers

The first Swanson frozen TV dinner (which sold for a mere 98 cents) was produced in the United States and consisted of a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread stuffing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes packaged in a tray like those used for airline meals.  Retired Swanson executive Gerry Thomas said he came up with the idea after the company found itself with a huge surplus of frozen turkeys because of poor Thanksgiving sales.

3.  There are 3 towns named Turkey in the US

The three small towns  — Turkey, TX, Turkey Creek, La. and Turkey, N.C. — each have fewer than 500 residents. However, the world's largest man-made turkey is in Frazee, MN.

4. The world's largest man-made turkey is in Frazee, MN


Weighing in at over 5,000 pounds, and standing over 20 feet tall, 'Big Tom' is the largest man-made turkey in the world. The turkey has roughly 1,000 pounds of steel reinforing its body, and there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 fiberglass feathers on the turkey--a task which took D.W.O. Fiberglass Company over 2000 hours to complete. The turkey took eight hours to assemble after three main pieces were constructed.

5. The night before Thanksgiving is the single biggest day for bar sales in the US

Thanksgiving Eve is the largest 'bar night' of the year. Not only do towns see an increase in population (mostly college students heading home to see their families for the vacation) but there's a built-in hangover day on Thanksgiving--complete with lots of comfort food. It also comes without the high price-tag of nights like New Years Eve where more places charge higher cover fees to take part in the revelry. Finally, it's one of the few chances each year that people get to reunite with childhood friends, most of whom have moved all over the country after high school.

6. The first meal on the moon was packets of roasted turkey

The first meal that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate on the moon was roasted turkey from foil packets. It wasn't Thanksgiving, but turkey does have a special sort of American je ne sais quoi.

7. The original Macy's Day Parade used live animals from the Central Park Zoo

1924 marks the first year of the Macy's Day Parade, which was formerly known as the Thanksgiving parade, held in Newark, New Jersey at Bamberger's (a store). For the first three years of the parade in New York, instead of using floats, Macy's used live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo in the spectacle. Over a quarter million people watched the first parade.

8.  There are about 250 million turkeys raised annually in the US:

To put things in perspective, the population of Indonesia is just under 250 million people. Major turkey producers tell consumers to buy 1.5 lbs of turkey per person on Thanksgiving so that there's enough to eat with dinner and then enough for leftovers. Hence, many turkeys.

9. The average person consumes 4500 calories on Thanksgiving day--enough to gain 1.3 pounds

The average Turkey Day reveler consumes up to 4,500 calories throughout the day. It takes eating 3,500 calories to equal one pound of fat. A 160-pound person would have to run at a steady pace for six hours, swim for seven and a half hours or walk 45 miles to burn off a 4,500-calorie Thanksgiving day food-fest.

10.  Green bean casserole was invented in 1955 by Campbells

The recipe was originally created for an Associated Press holiday food feature.  The recipe supervisor at the New Jersey Campbell Soup home economics kitchen is credited with creating the ubiquitous Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup recipe. Campbells estimates that it sells more than $20 million dollars of that variety every year. And because the French's onions that top the casserole are fried, consider this dish your ode to Thanksgivikuh.

11. Lincoln made Thanskgiving an official holiday

Although George Washington was the first to create a national day of thanksgiving, it didn't become a national holiday (with a set date) until Lincoln officially made it the last Thursday of November. For the interim 74 years, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving at different times. The original document that proclaimed the exact date of Thanksgiving was written by Secretary of State William Seward in 1863, and then sold a year later to benefit Union troops.

12.  Jingle Bells was orginally a Thanksgiving song

The song was composed by James Pierpont in 1857 for his Sunday school class' Thanksgiving performance at their church.  He wrote the song with simplicity in mind so that his students would have no trouble memorizing the tune. The song was so well-received at the Thanksgiving concert, that the children sang it again at Christmas--and that's how it became associated with that holiday rather than Thanksgiving.

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Hi. I’m Julie.

I’m an LA born-and-bred writer/photographer/blog manager/coffee-drinker-extraordinaire.

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