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Thanksgiving Trivia

Pilgrims at Plymouth

If you’re looking for silly activities after your Thanksgiving meal, why not play Thanksgiving Trivia?

Category 1: How did Thanksgiving get started?

Before Thanksgiving meant too much food, football games, and the Macy’s Day Parade, it was a day to thank God for, in the case of Pilgrims, sustenance itself. The first Pilgrims to America established a colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. They thought they were in Virginia, and by the time they realized their mistake, it was too late.

They thanked God for their safe arrival, turned up their noses at shellfish, and settled in for a cold winter. Half the settlers died. A Native American called Tisquantum taught the newbies how to plant corn, fish, and hunt. When the harvest came in, the Pilgrims celebrated with the Pokanokets people. On the menu was venison, duck, swan, geese, assorted vegetables, and indigenous berries. These probably didn’t include cranberries, since the Pilgrims lacked sugar. The event lasted three days, but wasn’t repeated the following year when relations were less cordial.

In 1817 the state of New York became the first to adopt Thanksgiving as an annual holiday, a trend opposed by Thomas Jefferson who considered giving thanks a religious action and therefore in violation of the separation of church and state. The first national celebration was in 1863 when President Lincoln gave in to constant pressure from Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Ladies Book and persistent lobbyist for a national event. In 1941 Congress passed a resolution declaring Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday of November.

Next Question: What makes a turkey a turkey?
Could you re-phrase the question?
Why do we call turkeys, turkeys?

In apprximately the seventeenth century, or perhaps a bit before, the English liked a certain guinea fowl imported from Turkey, and called the birds turkeys. When the Spanish arrived in America, they found birds with a similar taste and exported them to Europe. The English called these birds turkeys too.

Let’s talk about the menu. How many turkeys do we eat on Thanksgiving?

According to the National Turkey Federation, Americans consume about 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving, though only 88 percent of Americans actually eat turkey.

TV DinnerTurkey consumption led directly to Swanson TV dinners introduced in 1953 when an unknown person ordered 260 tons of turkeys, far too many for Swanson to sell. A salesman suggested filling an aluminum tray with turkey, corn bread dressing, peas, and sweet potatoes. The new product sold for 99 cents. In one year Swanson sold 10 million dinners — convenience food had arrived.

One of the challenges for home cooks is fewer people know how to roast a turkey, which is why Butterball began its dedicated Turkey Talk Line in 1981. Consultants handle about 100,000 calls annually. I sympathize with the callers. The first time I roasted a turkey, I didn’t know there were bits stashed in the cavity. That was an interesting surprise.

George Bush pardons turkeyOf course, not every turkey goes into a roasting pan. In 1989 President George H. W. Bush was the first president to officially pardon a White House turkey, a tradition that continues each year. This photo pictures the lucky bird with Bush II.

Where did Green Bean Casserole come from?

Green Bean CasseroleCampbell Soup Company developed a number of recipes utilizing their soups as short cuts. Tired of stirring a a white sauce? Add Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup instead. Campbell enlisted Cecil Brownstone to develop the recipe. Thanks to her efforts Campbell sells $20 million of soup annually.

Enough about the food. Let’s watch football.

Football Player & turkeyAmericans started watching professional football on Thanksgiving Day in 1934. G. A. Richards bought the Detroit Lions and needed to build up a fan base for the team. He scheduled a game with the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. With the exception of World War II, football became part of American tradition. It got better when games became part of television programming.

Dora the Explorer Macy ParadeDon’t want to watch football? Tune in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade instead. The store’s first parade was in 1924 and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. Floats and balloons made their appearance in 1927. Macy’s balloons keep current. This one’s for Dora the Explorer.

Last Trivia Question
On what day do the most people call for plumber repair experts?

You guessed it. According to Roto-Rooter, the most calls for attention to sinks, garbage disposals, and even toilets occur the day after Thanksgiving.

Enjoy Thanksgiving. Eat, drink, be merry, and maybe go outside for some fresh air.



Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons.

Pilgrim Exiles. Public Domain.

TV Dinner by Smile Lee. Creative Commons Attribution.

President George W. Bush pardoning turkey in 2006. Public Domain.

Green Bean Casserole by Rick Kimpel. Creative Commons Attribution.

Thanksgiving Day Football. Public Domain.

Dora the Explorer Balloon, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade by Ian Gampon. Creative Commons Attribution.

Thanksgiving Card, 1923. Public Domain.

Saeed Ahmed. “There’s a Reason Turkey (the bird) and Turkey (the country) Share a Name.” Nov. 21, 2016

Alex Heigl. “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Thanksgiving.” People. Nov. 22, 2016.

Barbara Maranzani. “Abraham Lincoln and the “Mother of Thanksgiving.” Oct. 3, 2013.

Taylor Murphy. “17 Fascinating Things you Never Knew About Thanksgiving.” Good Housekeeping. Oct. 3, 2017.

Julie R. Thomson. “Thanksgiving Trivia.” Huffington Post. Nov. 21, 2011.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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