Though many competing claims exist, the most familiar story of the first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth Colony, in present-day Massachusetts, in 1621. More than 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941. Here are some pretty cool Thanksgiving facts:
- Sarah Josepha Hale, the enormously influential magazine editor and author who waged a tireless campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the mid-19th century, was also the author of the classic nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
- The National Turkey Federation estimated that 46 million turkeys—one fifth of the annual total of 235 million consumed in the United States in 2007—were eaten at Thanksgiving.
- In a survey conducted by the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans said they eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which means some 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S. during Thanksgiving in 2007.
- Cranberry production in the U.S. is expected to reach 750 million pounds in 2011. Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington are the top cranberry growing states.
- The sweet potato is most plentifully produced in North Carolina, which grew 972 million pounds of the popular Thanksgiving side dish vegetable in 2010. Other sweet potato powerhouses included California and Mississippi, and the top producing states together generated over 2.4 billion pounds of the tubers.
- Originally known as Macy's Christmas Parade—to signify the launch of the Christmas shopping season—the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade took place in New York City in 1924. It was launched by Macy's employees and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. Today, some 3 million people attend the annual parade and another 44 million watch it on television.
- The first time the Detroit Lions played football on Thanksgiving Day was in 1934, when they hosted the Chicago Bears at the University of Detroit stadium, in front of 26,000 fans. The NBC radio network broadcast the game on 94 stations across the country--the first national Thanksgiving football broadcast. Since that time, the Lions have played a game every Thanksgiving (except between 1939 and 1944); in 1956, fans watched the game on television for the first time.