We all know that the first Thanksgiving dinner took place when the Pilgrims celebrated a good harvest in the New World, and that the tryptophan in turkey isn’t actually what makes you so sleepy.
(BUSINESS INSIDER) –But did you know that there was a crisis in the late 1930s called “Franksgiving?”
We rounded up 11 of the best facts about Thanksgiving, which might come in handy during those awkward silences at the family dinner table.
Before you feast on this guy, learn a few things about Thanksgiving.REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Asta Thrastardottir contributed reporting on an earlier version of this article.
1. There are three places in the US named Turkey.
Three small towns in America are named after the nation’s favorite bird.
There is Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Creek, Louisiana, according to the US Census Bureau. Turkey, Texas, is the most populated, with 421 residents.
2. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade used live animals from the Central Park Zoo.
The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York took place in 1914 when Macy’s employees dressed in vibrant costumes and marched to the flagship store on 34th Street.
The parade used floats instead of balloons, and it featured monkeys, bears, camels, and elephants, all borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. It was also originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, but was renamedthe Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927.
3. “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving song.
Getty Images/David Ramos
James Pierpoint composed the song in 1857for children celebrating Thanksgiving. The title was “One Horse Open Sleigh,” and it was such a hit that it was sung again at Christmas.
The song quickly became associated with the Christmas holiday season, and the title was officially changed in 1859, two years later.
Football is so ingrained in the Thanksgiving holiday that many people think the game is just as important as the turkey.
The first NFL football game that took placeon Thanksgiving Day was in 1934, when the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears. The Lions have played on Thanksgiving ever since, except when the team was called away to serve during World War II, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Dallas Cowboys also always play on Thanksgiving. Their first Thanksgiving Day game was held in 1966, and the Cowboys have only missed two games since then.
5. The night before Thanksgiving is one of the best for bar sales in the US.
Getty Images/Adam Berry
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest drinking nights of the yar, more than New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl, or even St. Patrick’s Day.
It makes sense, since nearly all Americans have Thanksgiving off, and dealing with family members can be very stressful. (But at least stuffing your face with fatty Thanksgiving foods is a perfect hangover cure.)
6. Thanksgiving leftovers inspired the first ever TV dinner.
In 1953, the TV-dinner company Swanson overestimated the demand for turkey by over 260 tons, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The owners of the company had no idea what to do with all the leftovers, so they enlisted the help of company salesman Gerry Thomas.
Taking inspiration from airplane meals, Thomas ordered 5,000 aluminum trays and loaded them with the turkey leftovers to create the first TV dinner.
7. Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the official bird of the US.
Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla
Benjamin Franklin thought turkeys were much more American than the bald eagle. Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter that said he found the bald eagle to be of bad moral character, adding that he thought the turkey was a “much more respectable bird.”
8. Thomas Jefferson canceled Thanksgiving during his presidency.
Getty Images/Yana Paskova
George Washington was the first to declare Thanksgiving a holiday, but it was on a year-to-year basis, so presidents had to re-declare it every year, according to The Washington Post. Jefferson was so adamantly against Thanksgiving that he refused to declare it a holiday during his presidency, and many say that he called the holiday “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived.”
Most historians agree that Jefferson really refused to declare the holiday because he fervently believed in the separation of church and state, and thought that the day of “prayer” violated the First Amendment.
It wasn’t until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a federal holiday, that it was officially scheduled to fall on the fourth Thursday of every November.
9. FDR tried to change the date of Thanksgiving — and it caused a lot of problems.
Library of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the second to last, according to the US National Archives.
The change was made in an attempt to lift the economy during the Great Depression, the idea being that it would give people more time to shop for Christmas.
But it ended up making everybody confused. Most states held Thanksgiving on its original date, and three states — Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas — celebrated the holiday in both weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It caused such a public outcry that people began referring to it as “Franksgiving.” After two years, Congress ditched the new policy and set the fourth Thursday of November as the legal holiday.
Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Minnesota produces more turkey than any other state in America. The state is expected to produce around 44 million turkeys this year, or 18% of all turkeys produced in the entire country, according to the Star Tribune.
North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, and Virginia are also top producers.
11. There is an annual tradition of offering a turkey a presidential pardon — and no one is really sure when it began.
The White House has a tradition of pardoning one lucky turkey each year.
The annual tradition was thought to have begun in 1963 with President John F. Kennedy. But some think that it actually started in the 1860s with Abraham Lincoln after his son Tad begged him to spare his pet turkey’s life.
Despite these two theories of the origins of the pardon, George H. W. Bush was the first president to officially grant a turkey a presidential pardon, according to The New York Times.