first thanksgivingThanksgiving is a time we give thanks for all our blessings: our faith, our country, our good health, our families and friends…so many things that give meaning to our lives.

It’s also a day when the average American consumes a hefty 3,000 calories in a single meal. Add drinks, desserts and appetizers, and one can push that number to a whopping 4,500 calories according to the Calorie Control Council, an industry group. Yep, Thanksgiving is a day to chow down.

There are many fun facts about this holiday that brings our loved ones together for a feast that can start at noon and continue well into the night for second helpings of Thanksgiving leftovers around football games on TV and sappy Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.

It’s a time to “catch up” as my mother used to say, to learn of family members’ lives lived in cities far away. It’s a time to “come home,” be close one more time before everyone is off again to his own pursuits. It’s a time to love and laugh, argue and pontificate. It’s family time, and we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Thanksgiving was one of the first celebrations for the pilgrims landing in a new world. They shared their bounty with friends and neighbors, and the holiday just took root. But how much do we really know about Thanksgiving? Here are some interesting facts from Goodhousekeeping.com:

  1. The first Thanksgiving was actually a three-day celebration.

Today, Thanksgiving is one day — maybe two if you count Black Friday. But apparently the Pilgrims wanted to party even harder. Governor William Bradford organized the feast, inviting the Plymouth colonists’ Native American allies. But it was only until the Wampanoag Indian guests came and joined the Pilgrims that they decided to extend the affair.

  1. It’s unclear if colonists and Native Americans ate turkey at their feast.

There is truly no definitive proof that the bird we wait all year to eat was even offered to guests back in 1621. However, they did indulge in other interesting foods like lobster, seal and swan.

  1. Today, a special part of Plymouth, Massachusetts, looks just as it did in the 17th century.

Thanksgiving Plymouth MAModeled after an English village and a Wampanoag home site, the historic attraction Plimoth Plantation stays true to its roots. You can order tickets as early as June to attend a Thanksgiving dinner complete with numerous authentic courses, tales of colonial life and centuries-old songs.

  1. The woman behind “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is also responsible for Thanksgiving’s recognition as a national holiday.

In 1863, writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote countless articles and letters to persuade the president — and the rest is history!

  1. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t feature any balloons.

But when the parade made its big debut in 1924, it did have something that might be even cooler than balloons: animals from the Central Park Zoo.

  1. But we have a Good Housekeeping illustrator to thank for the parade’s first balloons.

German American illustrator Tony Starg, who completed illustrations for Good Housekeeping, also had a passion for puppetry, which he used make the amazing floats come to life in 1927.

  1. In 1939, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the third Thursday in November — not the fourth.

You might think President Roosevelt could predict the future, as he channeled a “Black Friday” mindset in making this decision. Even though the holiday had been celebrated on the fourth Thursday since its official recognition decades before, Roosevelt bumped it up a week — offering seven more shopping days to the holiday season. Americans, to say the least, didn’t love the change, so it was officially (and legally) switched back in 1942.

  1. A Thanksgiving mix-up inspired the first TV dinners.

In 1953, a Swanson employee accidentally ordered a colossal shipment of Thanksgiving turkeys (260 tons, to be exact). To get rid of them all, salesman Gerry Thomas came up with the idea of filling 5,000 aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas and sweet potatoes. They were sold for 98 cents, and were a hit. Within one year, over ten million were sold.

  1. About 46 million turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving each year.

And several lucky turkeys are spared each year by the most powerful men in the free world.

It’s been recorded that President Abraham Lincoln was the first to give his Thanksgiving turkey a reprieve (Abe was an animal lover and couldn’t bear to have a turkey sacrificed for food.)

pardon-JFKPresident John F. Kennedy then started a trend by publicly sparing a turkey given to the White House. He decided after receiving a bird on November 19, 1963, that it shouldn’t stay as dinner. The turkey was wearing a sign that said, “Good Eatin’ Mr. President.” JFK spared the bird just three days before he was assassinated in Dallas.

turkey pardon-reaganPresident Ronald Reagan issued the first one-off “pardon” to Charlie, in 1987. President George H.W. Bush officially pardoned the first turkey in 1989; and throughout former President Obama’s term, he extended an additional reprieve each year to a second turkey, though only one is named the official National Thanksgiving Turkey. Last year’s birds, Honest and Abe, currently reside at Morven Park, the historic estate of former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis in Leesburg, Virginia. Pardoned turkeys have lived in a fenced-off pen there since 2013.Tater and Tot

There has been no mention yet whether or not President Donald J. Trump will follow suit. We’ll have to wait for the tweets, but I believe Mr. Tom will be pardoned and live out his years in a cushy environment just like the rest of his cousins.

As for our GreenAcres customers and employees, we hope you’ll enjoy the day surrounded by loved ones and come back into the store for coffee and muffins to get fortified before you trudge out to Black Friday the following day. Happy, happy Thanksgiving one and all!