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Little Known Facts About Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Thanksgiving

Well, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s the holiday to spend time with family and close friends. To sit around the dinner table catching up, swapping stories and eating turkey. But before you sit down to a plate full of turkey, dressing and other goodies, you might like to know some interesting and fun facts about turkeys, Pilgrims, and the holiday we call Thanksgiving.

People aren’t the only ones who are moody. So are turkeys. The color of a turkey’s head and throat will change depending on his mood. Turkeys can change the color of the skin on their heads from red to blue to white, depending on whether they are calm or excited.

Despite that, Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird.

In a letter to his daughter, Franklin wrote, “For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable bird and withal a true original Native of America.” Franklin thought the eagle was a “bird of bad moral character” that didn’t “get his living honestly.”

Here’s a question for you. How many feathers are on an adult wild turkey? Like to venture a guess?  A thousand? 3,000? How about 5,500, including 18 beautiful tail feathers on a male or gobbler, which he proudly displays when trying to attract a mate.

Turkeys also have a knack for remembering locations, even after a year away. Sometimes we humans have trouble remembering where we put our keys. But this clever bird seems to have built-in radar that leads them to their former location without the help of GPS.

Believe it or not, the Pilgrims never meant to land at Plymouth. They were headed for Virginia. But wouldn’t you know it, they ran out of beer. As a matter of fact, these supposed devoutly religious settlers were rationed a gallon of beer a day on the Mayflower.

The first Native American to speak to the Pilgrims, also came to ask for a beer. That’s not at all surprising. Beer had been brewed by Native Americans almost 800 years earlier. The ancient Pueblo Indians brewed their own brand of corn beer.

And mashed potatoes and gravy did not grace the table at the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving dinner. Can you imagine? That’s a staple at almost every Thanksgiving table in America today. So, why weren’t potatoes on the menu? They were thought to be poisonous.  

One last rather unusual Thanksgiving Day fact:

In the turn-of-the-20th century in America, Thanksgiving looked a lot like Halloween. 

People would dress up and stage costume parades through city streets. So many people participated in masking and merriment, Thanksgiving was the busiest time of year for companies that made masks and false faces.

Well, there you have it. Some little-known facts you can surprise your relatives or guests with at your Thanksgiving Day table. And you can always add to the list. Here are a couple of links.

In the meantime, we wish all of our readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!