NEW JERSEY – Turkey or ham? Perhaps a turducken?
Whichever traditional centerpiece you go with this Thanksgiving, there’s a chance it wasn’t served during the first holiday dinner in 1621. Historians believe the Plymouth Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe shared lobster, rabbit, nuts, carrots, eggs, and dried fruits during the original three-day celebration.
For 154 years, Thanksgiving would remain a secular celebration until 1775, when the Continental Congress recognized the first national celebration. Four score and eight years later, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday.
Since then, there have been countless traditions associated with the late-November holiday, which reveal interesting statistics:
- 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and 46 million birds are served. (National Turkey Federation)
- A meal for 10 people this year costs on average $50.11. (American Farm Bureau)
- In 1784, Ben Franklin suggested the wild turkey would be a more appropriate national symbol for the U.S. rather than the bald eagle. He believed turkeys were more respectable and "true original Native of America."
- The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held on November 27, 1924 to showcase the opening of the “World’s Largest Store” in New York City. Employees dressed as clowns and cowboys and were accompanied by animals from the Central Park Zoo.
- The Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving every year. The first Turkey Day football game was broadcast via NBC radio in 1934 when the Lions, having just moved from Ohio, played the Chicago Bears. The Thanksgiving Day game would make its TV debut in 1956, when the Lions played the Packers.
- The largest pumpkin pie ever was baked on October 8, 2005, by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio. It weighed 2,020 pounds and measured just over 12 feet long, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
- Over 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced in the U.S. each year in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
While it is certainly a holiday surrounded by tradition, Thanksgiving always succeeds in its mission: bringing families together and allowing Americans to express thanks.