Although a big part of the reason we show up to the Thanksgiving table every year is the food, there’s a lot to love about the annual November holiday. Not only is it a day where seconds of mouthwatering turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are encouraged — as are a stretchy pair of pants — but it’s a day steeped in history and tradition. In fact, there’s often so much about the holiday that we don’t know that breaking out some Thanksgiving trivia questions and fun facts year after year is a must. It is also good to be reminded about the real history of holiday.
You can even make it a tradition that everyone has to go around the table and share one piece of trivia before they’re officially allowed to dig in, or even make it a game and see who gets the most right. And of course, among all the fun facts and interesting trivia, don’t forget to say a few words of grace or a few thoughtful words with some of our favorite Thanksgiving quotes about gratitude before piling your plate high.
Question: How much did the world’s most expensive Thanksgiving dinner on record cost?
Old Homestead Steakhouse in Manhattan served up the most expensive Thanksgiving dinner in 2019 which was a whopping $181,000. Designed to serve 12 people, the dinner included two 20 lb. free-range turkeys covered in $2,000 edible gold flakes and seasoned with imported spices from the Middle East that came with a gravy infused with a $3,650 bottle of Louis XIII cognac. The meal also included seafood bread stuffing — made with imported bread and champagne, Alaskan King crab, lobster, Otoro tuna and golden caviar from the Caspian Sea — along with candied sweet potatoes made with imported cinnamon from Sri Lanka and butternut squash with Indian-imported spices and Wagyu beef along with cranberry sauce, veggies and more. And of course, dessert included pumpkin, apple, coconut custard and pecan pies along with a choice of Cristal or Dom Perignon champagne or wine. Talk about a meal made for a King!
Question: How many women were at the very first Thanksgiving celebration?
Although reports vary, it’s fairly certain that there were only four (maybe five) women at the first Thanksgiving celebration — all of which were married to men who were part of the first group of settlers. Eyewitness accounts say that there were just 22 men and over 25 children and teenagers in addition to those four women at that first celebration. There were originally more women on the voyage over, but according to History.com, about 78% died on the journey over or during the first winter from disease.
Question: Which Native American acted as an interpreter?
Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, was a Native American from the Patuxet tribe who was vital to the Pilgrims during their first winter in the New World. He acted as both an interpreter and a guide as the Pilgrims learned to adjust to the new way of life at Plymouth. Little is known about his life, but according to Biography.com, it is believed that he had reportedly been captured earlier in life by a captain commissioned by Plymouth Company who was exploring the coast of Maine and Massachusetts and was brought back to England, where he learned English. He returned to Plymouth with John Smith, where he found his entire tribe dead from smallpox and allegedly acted as a guide before being captured and enslaved in Spain. He once again escaped and was introduced to the Pilgrims and acted as an interpreter between them and the Wampanoags, the tribe he joined after the loss of his own years prior.
Question: Which city’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends with Santa Claus getting a key to the city?
The Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade has been an annual tradition since 1924, the same year the Macy’s Day Parade began in New York City. According to the Detroit Historical Society, the two-mile parade, which was started by Hudson’s department store, takes place on Woodward Avenue and ends with Santa Claus stepping off the final float in front of Hudson’s to accept the key “to both the city and the hearts of good children everywhere.”
Question: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, how much does the heaviest turkey on record weigh?
Answer: 86 pounds
Yes, you read that right — a whopping 86 pounds. According to Guinness, a turkey named Tyson who weighed 86 pounds was sold at a charity auction in London in 1989 for about $6,692. For comparison, a typical Thanksgiving turkey usually weighs around 15 pounds.
Question: What town canceled Thanksgiving because they couldn’t make pumpkin pies?
Answer: Colchester, Connecticut
A frigid bout of cold weather in the middle of October led to the Connecticut River freezing, so settlers couldn’t get their usual liquid sugar shipped on time from across the pond. Thus, the townspeople decided to postpone the holiday for a week in 1705. It was so legendary, Rose Mill Powers actually wrote a poem about it in a July 1908 issue of Good Housekeeping.
Question: What professional football team has played almost every Thanksgiving since 1934?
Answer: The Detroit Lions
George A. Richards, a former owner, purchased the Portsmouth Ohio Spartans in 1934 and moved them to Detroit. Rebranded as the Detroit Lions, George decided to host a Thanksgiving Day game against the world champion Chicago Bears in hopes of attracting fans. The team has always played on Thanksgiving except between 1939-1944 due to World War II. The Dallas Cowboys also joined in on the Turkey Day tradition in 1966 and have played every Thanksgiving except in 1975 and 1977.
Question: What city is home to the oldest Thanksgiving parade?
The Philadelphia Gimbel Brothers Department Store parade in 1920 had only 50 people, 15 cars and a fireman dressed as Santa Claus. The parade ended with Santa on his sleigh, signifying the arrival of the holiday season. Today, it’s much bigger and called the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade instead. It was the inspiration behind the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day Parade which started in 1924.
Question: What did President Calvin Coolidge famously receive as a Thanksgiving gift?
Answer: A live raccoon
In November 1926, Vinnie Joyce of Nitta Yuma, Mississippi, sent the 30th President of the United States a live raccoon to be served as Thanksgiving dinner. However, the President became so smitten with the furry animal that he pardoned it and adopted it as a pet. He named it Rebecca.
Question: What’s the only area in Australia to celebrate Thanksgiving?
Answer: Norfolk Island
The tradition started when American whaling ships would make frequent stops on the island during the late 1800s. The tiny territory, home to fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, typically celebrates the American holiday with a meal that combines classic Thanksgiving foods like pumpkin pie and cornbread blended with Norfolk Island cuisine. Many also celebrate by attending church services.
Question: How long was the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: Three days
Hunker down for a bit of the rich history of Thanksgiving. Today, Thanksgiving takes place over one decadent day — maybe two if you count Black Friday history. But the original Pilgrims really went all out. In November 1621, the settlers’ first corn harvest proved so successful that Governor William Bradford reportedly invited the Plymouth colonists’ Native American allies to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Members of the Wampanoag tribe came bearing food to share. They had so much bounty that the revelers decided to extend the affair.
Question: What food did the colonists and Native Americans not have at the first Thanksgiving?
While most of us enjoy turkey as the centerpiece of our table, no one can say for sure whether it was even on the menu back in 1621. However, the original guests did indulge in other foods like lobster, seal and swan. The Wampanoag also reportedly brought five deer to the celebration. If you also enjoy venison at your table, consider yourselves perfectly aligned with a longstanding tradition.
Question: What area of Massachusetts still looks just like it did in the 17th century?
Answer: Plymouth, Massachusetts
If you want to see what Thanksgiving was really like back in the 1600s, the historic attraction Plymouth (or Plimoth) Plantation stays true to its historic roots. You can even celebrate Thanksgiving at the site, which is modeled after a colonist’s home and a Wampanoag site. Guests and members can order advance tickets (which include two-day admission) to attend a Thanksgiving dinner. The table-groaning feast features authentic courses like a corn pudding and fish fricassee, tales of colonial life and old-timey songs.
Question: What president refused to declare Thanksgiving a holiday?
Answer: Thomas Jefferson
Presidents originally had to declare Thanksgiving a holiday every year, up until Lincoln made it a national holiday during his tenure. However, Jefferson refused to recognize the event because he believed so firmly in the separation of church and state. Since Thanksgiving involved prayer and reflection, he thought designating it a national holiday would violate the First Amendment. He also thought it was better suited as a state holiday, not a federal one.
Question: What do Thanksgiving and the song “Mary Had A Little Lamb” have in common?
Answer: They were both created by the same woman — sort of.
Writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday after three decades of persistent lobbying. The author also founded the American Ladies Magazine, which promoted women’s issues long before suffrage. She wrote countless articles and letters, advocating for Thanksgiving to help unify the Northern and Southern states amid gathering divisions. Hale kept at it, even after the Civil War broke out, and Lincoln actually wrote the proclamation just a week after her last letter in 1863, earning her the name the Mother of Thanksgiving.
Question: What wasn’t part of the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
If you can’t imagine the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without giant floats featuring your favorite characters, you’d barely recognize the first parade in the early 1920s. It did have puppets riding the iconic floats, as well as singers and celebrities and of course, Santa Claus. That said, when the Thanksgiving parade made its big debut in 1924, it did have something that might be even crazier than balloons: animals from the Central Park Zoo.
Question: What is Good Housekeeping’s tie to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Answer: We have a Good Housekeeping illustrator to thank for the parade’s first balloons.
German-American illustrator Tony Starg, whose illustrations were featured in Good Housekeeping, also had a passion for puppetry. He used that talent to make some amazing floats come to life in 1927.
How cool is that?
Question: Has Thanksgiving always been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November?
Answer: No. In 1939, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the third Thursday in November.
You might think President Roosevelt could predict the future, as he channeled a “Black Friday” mindset when he decided to move Thanksgiving during his presidency. Even though the holiday had been celebrated on the fourth Thursday since Lincoln officially recognized the federal holiday decades before, Roosevelt bumped it up a week effectively adding seven more shopping days to the holiday season to boost the economy. That angered football coaches who had Thanksgiving games already scheduled and calendar printers who now had incorrect dates. Americans, to say the least, didn’t love the change, so it was officially switched back in 1942.
Question: A Thanksgiving turkey mix-up inspired what popular meal trend?
Answer: Frozen TV dinners
In 1953, a Swanson employee accidentally ordered a colossal shipment of Thanksgiving turkeys (260 tons, to be exact). To deal with the excess, salesman Gerry Thomas took inspiration from the prepared foods served on airplanes. He came up with the idea of filling 5,000 aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas and sweet potatoes to complete the offering. The 98-cent meals were a hit, especially with kids and increasingly busy households.
Within a single year, over 10 million were sold and a whole industry was born.
Question: How many turkeys do Americans prepare each Thanksgiving?
Answer: 46 million
Thanksgiving without turkey would be like Christmas without a tree, and most American families wouldn’t dream of foregoing the almighty bird. While not super popular the rest of the year, turkey is a huge hit for holidays, probably because it can serve large gatherings. On Christmas, an additional 22 million families host an encore with their Thanksgiving turkey recipes.
Turns out, the bird really is the word.
Question: What percentage of Americans actually eat turkey on Thanksgiving?
If your family goes in a different direction on the big day, you’re not alone. According to the National Turkey Federation, 88% of Americans chow down on Thanksgiving turkey (see these turkey serving guidelines). The rest may be vegetarian or vegan, or just taking a stand against a protein that, let’s face it, doesn’t show up much the rest of the year for a reason.
That begs the question, what interesting dishes that make Thanksgiving charts are the other 12% cooking up?
Question: How many grams of fat does the typical American eat on Thanksgiving?
Answer: 229 grams
You might want to put on those stretchy pants before heading to Thanksgiving dinner (as if you needed a warning!) That’s about three to four times the amount of fat you should eat in a day. While this is probably not news to those of us who go for second or third helpings of the big meal, the entire Thanksgiving dinner could total over 3,000 calories. Now, who’s up for tossing around the ol’ pigskin after dinner?
Question: How many runners participated in America’s first turkey trot?
The first race was hosted over a century ago by the local YMCA in Buffalo, NY and included just six runners — although only four of them made it to the finish line. One runner dropped out when his “late breakfast refused to keep in its proper place” and another simply excused himself after two miles. Today, turkey trots are a much bigger deal. In 2018, more than one million people were slated to finish one giant Thanksgiving race and around 1,000 turkey trots took place around the country.
Question: What world record was set at a turkey trot in 2011?
Answer: Amount of people dressed up as turkeys
Not only are turkey trots one of the fun and unique Thanksgiving traditions, many of them also offer runners the unique opportunity to dress in fun costumes commemorating the day. On Thanksgiving Day in 2011, runners at the YMCA Turkey Trot in Dallas, Texas, dressed up in droves and set a Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as turkeys. In total, 661 people came wearing their feathered finest. Consider this your inspiration to do the same.
Question: What happens to the turkeys that are pardoned by the president each year?
Answer: The turkeys pardoned by the president go on to live fulfilled lives.
Although President John F. Kennedy was the first to pardon a turkey, President George H.W. Bush was the first to make pardoning a turkey an annual event in 1989 after he noticed the 50-pound bird at his official Thanksgiving proclamation looked a little nervous. Every president has upheld the tradition, ever since. But what happens to that lucky bird that lives to squawk another day? In 2005 and 2009, the turkeys went to Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks to serve as grand marshals in their annual Thanksgiving parades.
And from 2010 to 2013, they vacationed at Washington’s Mount Vernon state. Looks like the birds aren’t wasting their second shot.
Question: Do turkeys actually gobble?
Answer: Only male turkeys gobble.
If you learned in preschool that a turkey goes “gobble, gobble,” that’s only about half true. Only male turkeys — appropriately named gobblers — actually make the sound. Female turkeys cackle instead. So if you’re trying to figure out whether a turkey’s male or female, just wait until they open their beaks.
Question: Where do turkeys get their name?
Answer: Turkeys are (kind of) named after the country.
No, the big turkey does not really hail from the country Turkey. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, a bird called the guinea fowl — which bears a striking resemblance to the American turkey — was imported to Europe from its native North Africa. Because the birds came from Turkish lands, Europeans called them the turkey-cock and turkey-hen. When settlers in the Americas began sending similar-looking birds back to Europe, the name had already stuck!
Question: According to Americans, what’s the best part of Thanksgiving?
Answer: The leftovers.
Fans of the beloved turkey, stuffing and mashed potato leftover sandwich: You’re in the majority. Most Americans prefer Thanksgiving leftovers to the actual meal. Almost eight in 10 Americans agree that the second helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes and of course pie beat out the big dinner itself, according to a 2015 Harris Poll (Take a bite out of some sweet potato pie, these leftover stuffing recipes and easy mashed potatoes recipes!).
Many people will craft creative leftover concoctions out of what doesn’t get consumed during the feast, or just head back for a whole second act. If you find yourself raiding the fridge, you’re in good company.
Question: How many calls does the Butterball turkey talk line get each year?
So many people roast a big bird just once a year and understandably need a little help. No question is too silly for the heroes on the other end of the line. In 2016, the company’s popular cooking crisis management team also introduced a 24-hour text message line or Butterball turkey talk line for the lead-up to the big day. So if you’re wondering why the turkey isn’t turning out quite the way you want it – or your oven starts on fire like Taylor’s firefighter father-in-law’s did one year – don’t panic. Help is just a call or a text message away.
Question: Do other countries celebrate the holiday?
Answer: Yes! Canada also celebrates Thanksgiving — but on a different day.
Our neighbors to the north also celebrate Thanksgiving, but they do so on a different day and for an unrelated reason. While American Thanksgiving pays homage to a feast between the pilgrims and the Native Americans, the Canadian celebration commemorates a feast between English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew after their successful sail from England to the Canadian territory in 1578. Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday of October every year.
That doesn’t mean there are zero similarities between the two holidays. Both American and Canadian Thanksgiving menus often revolve around turkey, and revelers in both countries frequently spend the day watching football marathons and festive parades. In Canada, the biggest one is the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Question: How many places in the U.S. bear the name turkey?
Diehard Thanksgiving fans can actually move to a town named after the centerpiece of their favorite holiday. The U.S. Census has identified another four named Cranberry and a grand total of 34 dubbed Plymouth (get a taste of these cranberry sauce recipes). We bet they take their celebrations very seriously.
Question: How much pumpkin pie do Americans eat every Thanksgiving?
Answer: An estimated 50 million pumpkin pies are devoured every November.
Some of us consider pumpkin pie a vehicle for whipped topping and could take it or leave it. If you’d also rather leave your pumpkins for Halloween and dig into another Thanksgiving dessert, you’re not alone. According to The American Pie Council, more Americans prefer apple pie overall — pumpkin pie only comes in second place.
Good thing many Thanksgiving spreads feature a few different pies so you can have your pick.
Question: What is the busiest day of the year for plumbers?
Answer: Black Friday
Thanks to all that food we gobble up on Thanksgiving (see these leftover turkey recipes) and houseguests stressing out the plumbing system, Roto-Rooter reports that kitchen drains, garbage disposals and yes, toilets, require more attention the day after Thanksgiving than any other day. Before you have to join the legions paying a hefty holiday bill, you may want to remind your kitchen clean-up crew to scrape the plates before washing.
Question: How many people go shopping on Black Friday?
Answer: Over 32 million people
Even though many consumers think stores shouldn’t be open on Thanksgiving, a good chunk of us still shop on the holiday, according to the National Retail Federation. But not everyone heads to the mall before their meal settles.
Black Friday still draws the biggest crowd of the entire holiday weekend, with 115 million people. A total of 69 percent of Americans chase those deals like a retail-driven Olympic sport.
Question: What day is honored every last Thursday in November?
Answer: National Day of Mourning
Thanksgiving’s history isn’t all sunny. Before you tuck into your turkey and stuffing, take a moment to remember that Thanksgiving didn’t come about entirely peacefully. After the pilgrims arrived, years of conflict took place between European settlers and the Wampanoag people, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Native people. The only reason the pilgrims could even settle in Plymouth was because the Wampanoag population had been devastated by disease, virtually wiped out by a plague European settlers brought with them years before.
Since 1970, people have gathered on the last Thursday in November at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Similar events take place in other parts of the country to remember that, even as European settlers fled to North America to escape persecution in their own country, their arrival heralded unspeakable loss for Native people that still continues today.
Question: What are “Tofurky Roasts”?
Answer: Meat-free Thanksgivings
“Tofurky Roasts” have existed since 1995. Those of us who rarely partake in turkey would’ve indulged in some tasty options at the very first Thanksgiving since the original guests sampled a seafood spread of oysters and delectable shellfish courtesy of the Native Americans. These days, one main meatless alternative for the star bird is “tofurky.” Get a taste of plant-based meat from Tofurky for Thanksgiving with their vegan-friendly non-GMO Tofurky Roast. Vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians should delight in this tantalizing holiday option.
Question: What real Thanksgiving food was popularized in How I Met Your Mother?
The 2000s sitcom popularized the phrase “turturkeykey” (amongst other fictional phrases!) in season 6, episode 10 “Blitzgiving.” Ted Mosby tempted our taste buds with this innovative protein which involves stuffing a turkey with (you guessed it!) another turkey. YouTube’s Binging with Babish brought the dish to life recently. Get the recipe here. The succulent beast should make for a show-stopping feast at your next “Friendsgiving” shindig.
Question: What did the balloons take the place of when introduced in the 1928 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Answer: Live zoo animals
Animals from the Central Park Zoo were part of the parade back when it was still known as the Macy’s Christmas Parade in 1924. Nevertheless, although the first annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t include any balloons, the historic event is the world’s largest inflatable parade. In 2001, the parade celebrated its 75th anniversary and flaunted its signature crowd-pleasers with 30 larger-than-life inflatable characters.
Question: Who was the first video-game character featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Answer: Sonic the Hedgehog
In 1993, the popular holiday parade debuted its first-ever video-game character Sonic the Hedgehog in front of millions of spectators. ’90s kids certainly enjoyed seeing their fast and furr-ious blue guy grace television screens.
Question: Who was the first Manga character featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
If you channel your inner glutton on Thanksgiving, then you’ll scarf down this tasty piece of trivia with gusto like Goku from Dragon Ball Z. Manga-lovers around the world were likely thrilled when the beloved foodie superhero made his debut at the parade.