In many of America’s 117 million households, preparations will start this weekend for the Thanksgiving Day holiday feast.
Coupons will be clipped, and stores will be packed with people, cleaning off shelves and scrambling for bargains on turkeys, stuffing, hams, yams and other holiday fixings. With all of the hubbub leading up to Thursday and especially with all of the parades, football games, and start of Christmas holiday decorations and shopping that will follow, it’s important to have a few talking points for Thanksgiving.
As you might guess, the U.S. Census Bureau is happy to provide folks with an information feast for the holiday. What’s thought to be the first Thanksgiving actually occurred in 1621, 155 years before the United States’ Declaration of Independence.
The Pilgrims as early settlers of the Plymouth Colony had a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Other European settlers’ celebrations of thanks date back to British colonists in Virginia as early as 1619. (That also happens to be the year that a Dutch ship docked in Jamestown, delivering the first shipment of Africans to North America, beginning the U.S. slave trade. Hmmm?)
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The legacy of thanks continued and became a national holiday on Oct. 3, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln for the Civil War weary Union (again over slavery) proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday of November. President Franklin Roosevelt added clarity, proclaiming that Thanksgiving Day should always be the fourth Thursday of the month. During the Great Depression, that was all about encouraging earlier Christmas shopping so that Thanksgiving would never be on the occasional fifth Thursday of the month.
To get the goods for the Thanksgiving Day meal, people will trek to probably more than one of the 66,286 supermarkets and grocery stores in the U.S, according to a 2013 count. For special treats, consumers will rely on 3,235 baked good stores or 2,761 fruit and vegetable markets in the U.S.
Turkey is the No. 1 dish in many households on Thanksgiving. The census reports that 228 million turkeys were expected to be raised in 2015 in the United States. Believe it or not, that’s down 4 percent from 2014.
Minnesota alone is forecast to raise 40 million turkeys this year followed by 29 million in North Carolina, 27 million in Arkansas, 19.1 million in Indiana, 18 million in Missouri and 17.4 million in Virginia.
Not all turkeys filling U.S. tables will have come from the United States. The census reports that the value of imported live turkeys for 2014 was $24 million — 100 percent of them came from neighboring Canada. The census reports that the Dominican Republic was the source of 48.8 percent, or $6.6 million in sweet potatoes.
U.S. cranberry production in 2015 was expected to be 841 million pounds. Wisconsin takes the lead producing 503 million pounds followed by Massachusetts with 211 million pounds, and then New Jersey, Oregon and Washington state estimated to produce 18 million to 59 million pounds.
If people feel weighted down from eating too much they can point to sweet potatoes as being part of the delicious problem. Three billion pounds of sweet potatoes were produced in the U.S. in 2014.
Of the 117 million households in the U.S. that may celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, 4.5 million in 2014 were multigenerational, consisting of three or more generations of people. It would take a whole lot of cooking and tables and chairs to accommodate some of those very large families.
Believe it or not, there are four places in this country named after the traditional bird served on Thanksgiving. They are Turkey Creek Village, La.; Turkey Creek, Ariz.; Turkey City, Texas; and Turkey Town, N.C. There are also 11 townships with “Turkey” in the name.
In 2014 there were 24.4 million U.S. residents of English ancestry who could very well be descendants of the Plymouth colonists who participated in the 1621 autumn fest thought to be the first Thanksgiving — especially with 655,000 of them living in Massachusetts.
The census reports that in 2010 there were 6,500 members of the Wampanoag American Indian tribal grouping, and about half of them live in Massachusetts. The Wampanoag played a key role in the Pilgrams’ survival during the first year they were in the New World, and every U.S. schoolkid has been taught religiously that the American Indians participated in the first Thanksgiving.
Cooking the Thanksgiving Day meal isn’t like it once was over an open fire or in a wood-burning stove. The census reports that in 2011, 98.6 percent of U.S. households cooked with gas or electric stoves. In addition, 96.8 percent of U.S. households had a microwave oven, which always come in handy in preparing the holiday feast.
Just as ubiquitous as gas and electric stoves are televisions. The census notes that in 2011, 98.3 percent of all U.S. households had TVs. It would be impossible to enjoy the Thanksgiving Day parades and endless football games without television, and don’t forget the commercials.
And for all of that food that doesn’t get eaten on Thanksgiving Day, there are leftovers and lots of them. Then there’s the question of where to put it all.
The census notes that 35.8 percent of all U.S. households in 2011 had a stand-alone freezer compared to 99.2 percent of households having a refrigerator (which will be stuffed after the holiday) and 69.3 percent of households with a dishwasher. Those without that wonderful cleaning appliance will have to rely on a helpful guest or family member to tidy up.