by Roberta B. Turner

Thanksgiving is the second most popular holiday in the U.S. after Christmas, with nearly 90 percent of Americans celebrating every year.

According to estimates by the National Turkey Foundation, 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving. This means that 20% of the 228 million turkeys consumed in the U.S. each year are eaten on Thanksgiving. And 22% of the turkeys we eat come from Minnesota.

Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.   The day usually starts with watching one of the many parades, preparing the turkey and all the trimmings, and then there is football followed by more football. Most families follow traditions and in our family we make it a family affair to do the preparation and the cooking.  Our granddaughter stuffs the turkey, my husband makes the best lumpy mashed potatoes, our daughter prepares the vegetables, our son-in-law carves the turkey, and our grandson helps set the table and says the prayer.  I am the gravy maker.  When dinner is ready we all share what we are thankful for.   This always brings tears to my eyes.  Love of family is what life is all about.

Any look at Thanksgiving by the numbers would be lacking if travel went unmentioned. Americans expend a lot of effort to get back home and spend the holiday with their families. According to the American Automobile Association, an estimated 46.9 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles to reach their Thanksgiving destination last year.

Setting aside time to give thanks for one’s blessings, along with holding feasts to celebrate a harvest, are both practices that long predate the European settlement of North America.

Here are some Thanksgiving Day
facts about this wonderful holiday

The date of the first Thanksgiving is not known though it occurred between September 21 and November 9, 1621, and it was a three-day celebration with different types of meat and fruit and vegetables. The Plymouth Pilgrims dined with the Wampanoag Indians on the first Thanksgiving.
Potatoes were not part of the first Thanksgiving. Irish immigrants had not yet brought them to North America.
The first national celebration of Thanksgiving was declared in 1775 by the Continental Congress.
Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.
he first Intercollegiate football championship was held on Thanksgiving Day in 1876.
The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924.
In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day forward one week, as it is presently celebrated, as a response to a campaign organized by magazine editor Sara Joseph Hale who also wrote the song “Mary had a little lamb.”
Since 1947 the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with a live turkey and two dressed turkeys in celebration of Thanksgiving. The annual presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the President has become a traditional holiday ritual in the nation’s capital, signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season.
The National Thanksgiving Turkey permanently resides at Morven Park in Leesburg, Va.