Everything You Never Knew About Thanksgiving

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Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

There are a few important things about Thanksgiving week that the US Census Bureau can’t claim to have tallied up.Those would include Americans’ collective thoughts of gratitude, the nation’s highest-decibel football fans, or the number of turkey sandwiches consumed during the days following the holiday.

But data from the Census and other sources do provide some numerical insights into what is arguably the most cherished national holiday.

No knife and fork needed, just read on.

The Big 10

That's a college football conference, but here we're talking about the number of big football games over the long weekend. And the number 10 is artificially conservative.

In college football, the high-intensity match-ups include Arkansas versus Louisiana State, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Notre Dame vs. USC, Alabama vs. Auburn, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Clemson vs. South Carolina.

Add a contest within the Big 10 itself (Penn State vs. Wisconsin) and that's seven big games right there.

The National Football League will contribute many more.

Here are just the three to be played on Thanksgiving Day itself: Houston Texans vs. Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys, and (in the evening) New York Jets vs. New England Patriots.

The list could go on of course. (Fill in the blank with your favourite local teams.)

46 million birds

That's the estimated number of turkeys raised this year in Minnesota, the top turkey-producing state in the country.

In all, the US Department of Agriculture estimates, 254 million turkeys are being raised by US farmers this year, up 2 per cent from 2011.

A substantial share of them will show up on dining tables this week.

After Minnesota, the highest-producing states are North Carolina (36 million), Arkansas (29 million), Missouri (18 million), Virginia (17 million), and Indiana (17 million). The six states together account for about two-thirds of US turkeys.

37 locations

This is the number of places and townships in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, where the first Pilgrims landed.

They named the town for the port in England from which the Mayflower sailed, located near the mouth of the River Plym. Plymouth, Minn., is the most populous in America, with 71,561 residents in 2011, according to the Census Bureau.

Plymouth, Mass., had 56,767 residents.

There is just one township in the United States named Pilgrim. Located in Dade County, Mo.

Four places are named after the holiday's traditional main course. They are Turkey Creek, La.; Turkey, Texas; Turkey, N.C.; and Turkey Creek, Ariz. In addition, 11 townships have Turkey in their names.

100 million pounds

The states of California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania each produce at least that many pounds of pumpkins per year, the US Department of Agriculture says.

But they're outmatched by Illinois, which leads the nation in output of the rugged orange gourds.

To be precise, the Land of Lincoln is also the land of 520 million pounds of pumpkins.

That should pave the way for plenty of pie.

115 per cent

If Massachusetts could boost its cranberry production by this percentage, the state that was home to the Pilgrims could become the nation's leading producer of the tart berries.

That title currently rests with Wisconsin, which is harvesting 450 million pounds of cranberries this year.

Together with Massachusetts (210 million pounds), the two states account for most of the nation's 768 million pound cranberry harvest.


Ring a bell?

That's the year the Pilgrim newcomers to America celebrated their harvest after a year of challenges, alongside the local Wampanoag Indians.

The website of the current day Plimoth Plantation (a living history venue in Massachusetts) says the feasting and 'sport' (recreation) was 'not merely a revel; it was also a joyous outpouring of gratitude' by the Christians from Europe.

And for the Wampanoag, 'Giving thanks for the Creator's gifts had always been a part of ... daily life' and of celebrations.

64,380 markets

That's the number of grocery stores in the US as of 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

They're known to be a bit busy around Thanksgiving.

672,370 tons

That's how many tons of green beans were contracted for production in the US this year, the US Department of Agriculture estimates.

Wisconsin is the leading green-bean-producing state -- 309,010 tons.

Many Americans include a green bean casserole on their Thanksgiving table.

2.7 billion pounds

This is how many pounds of sweet potatoes -- another popular Thanksgiving side dish -- were grown in the major producing states in 2011.

Leading the way was North Carolina, at 1.3 billion pounds harvested.

When it comes to shipments from overseas, the Dominican Republic was the source of 45.3 per cent of total sweet potato imports, according to Census Bureau trade statistics.


Is the year Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to reinstate a Thanksgiving holiday after the model of the first presidents, according to the Plimoth Plantation website.

Drawing on her influence as the editor of the women's magazine Godey's Lady's Book, she publicly petitioned several presidents to make it an annual event.

Ms. Hale's efforts finally bore fruit in 1863, as President Lincoln agreed that a national Thanksgiving might serve to unite a war-torn country.

Although succeeding presidents continued to make Thanksgiving an annual event, it was only in 1941 that Congress formalized the date as the fourth Thursday each November.

Can't get enough of Thanksgiving?

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