Benjamin Franklin was so fond of turkey that he lobbied to make it the national bird. His call was not heeded and we got the regal eagle instead.
The woman who wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb, Sarah Josepha Hale, spent decades lobbying Washington D.C. to make Thanksgiving a national holiday – and finally succeeded when Lincoln, seeing the unifying potential of the holiday, issued a proclamation in 1863 that Thanksgiving was to be an annual holiday celebrated across the nation on the last Thursday of November.
In 1939 at the end of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the 3rd Thursday in November to extend the Christmas shopping season. The sudden date change was met with vociferous opposition. Republicans called this new date “Franksgiving.” In protest, they alternatively celebrated what they called a Republican Thanksgiving the following week. The 1942 movie musical Holiday Inn pokes fun at these competing dates with an animated and confused turkey that jumps back and forth between the two weeks on a calendar.
In 1941, Congress finally settled the squabbling over the official date of Thanksgiving by adopting a resolution that set the fourth Thursday in November as the legally observed holiday.
Illinois is the number one pumpkin grower – on average they provide 520 million pounds of pumpkin per year, much of it consumed on Thanksgiving. Wisconsin produces the most cranberries (450 million pounds) while North Carolina is the top sweet potato producer (1.3 billion pounds).
The now famous Macy Day Thanksgiving parade started in 1924 by Macy employees, but rather than the huge balloons of today, that first parade featured live animals such as lions, bears, elephants, camels and tigers.
Every year on Alcatraz island in the San Francisco Bay, the International Indian Treaty Council hosts an Unthanksgiving Day, which is also known as The Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony.
Presidentially-pardoned turkeys are now sent to Mount Vernon (George Washington’s estate) to live out their final days.
Black Friday, that infamous day of great deals, is projected to reel in over $602 billion dollars for retailers this year. This number exceeds the GDP of Czech Republic, Ukraine and Slovenia combined. I suggest you skip this frenetic day of shopping and spend one extra quality day with your friends and family instead. Charades anyone?