In 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from England and landed at what was to be called Plymouth Colony. The first winter was hard, and many died. With the help of some neighboring Native American tribes, 1621 saw a bumper crop. In the fall of that year the Pilgrims held a feast to offer thanks to God for their bountiful harvest. Many now consider this feast to be the first Thanksgiving.
In 1863 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a national holiday and day of Thanksgiving. This celebration continued every year in this manner for nearly 80 years. In the 20th century President Franklin Roosevelt modified the date of Thanksgiving slightly to make it fall earlier in November. The rationale for this was to extend the Christmas shopping season by a week in the midst of the Great Depression . In 1941 the date of Thanksgiving was established by Congress to fall on the fourth Thursday of November.
The U.S. Census Bureau collects data from other federal agencies concerning facets of Thanksgiving. Here are some of their most up to date Thanksgiving statistics:
- There are expected to be 248 million turkeys raised in 2011. This means that every man, woman and child in the U.S. could eat over half a turkey, and there would still be some leftovers.
- The total weight of all of the turkeys produced in 2010 came in at over 7 billion pounds.
- The states of Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana produce nearly two-thirds of the nation’s turkeys.
- Despite the over $4 billion in turkeys produced domestically, during the first half of 2011 the nation imported nearly $8 million more turkeys. Most of these were from Canada.
- On average, each American consumed a yearly amount of 13.3 pounds of turkey in 2009. This is spread out over the entire year, so not all 13.3 pounds was eaten at Thanksgiving. However, a sizable portion would be.
- 750 million pounds of cranberries are expected to be produced in 2011. No word on how many of those will form the cranberry sauce shaped like a can.
- In 2010 the retail price of a frozen turkey was $1.38 per pound.
- There are a total of four incorporated areas of the country named after the turkey:
- Turkey Creek, Louisiana had a population of 441 people in 2010.
- Turkey, Texas had a population of 421 people in 2010.
- Turkey Creek, Arizona had a population of 294 people in 2010.
- Turkey, North Carolina had a population of 292 people in 2010.
- Around 2.4 billion pounds of sweet potatoes were produced last year. How heavy is that? Over a quarter of a million elephants would weigh less than that many sweet potatoes.
- The state responsible for the most sweet potatoes was North Carolina, weighing in with 972 million pounds. That makes North Carolina responsible for over 40% of the sweet potatoes grown domestically.
- About 1.1 pounds of pumpkins were grown in 2010, making billions of pumpkin pies a possibility. The state of Illinois produced over a third of the pumpkins. California, Ohio, and New York collectively produced another third of them.
- In the first half of this year, $5.3 million in sweet potatoes were imported into the U.S. Over half of these sweet potatoes came from the Dominican Republic.
- There is a single township in the U.S. named Pilgrim. Only 132 people lived there in 2010. Other Pilgrim-related place names are more populous. There are 37 places and townships in the country named Plymouth. The Plymouth with the largest population is located in Minnesota and had over 70 thousand residents in 2010.