The celebration of Thanksgiving: Fun facts and statistics

By | November 15, 2012 | Holidays & Entertaining

The celebration of Thanksgiving: Fun facts and statistics

Perhaps you’re a know-it-all like Cliff Clavin – trying to impress everyone with your knowledge about every little topic. Or perhaps, like others, you like to be amused and history was never your strong point. Regardless of your level of knowledge about Thanksgiving, here’s a handy infographic providing fun facts about turkey, travel and the celebration of Thanksgiving.


Text version of infographic below.

Infographic source: Nationwide Bank

The First Thanksgiving

In 1621, the pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest with a feast that lasted three days.

First Thanksgiving Menu

Wild goose or duck
Wild turkey
Flint corn

Modern Thanksgiving Dinner

Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce

Thanksgiving wasn’t widely celebrated until after more than 36 years of campaigning, Sarah Josepha Hale convinced Abraham Lincoln to make it a national holiday in 1863.

Fun fact: Sarah Josepha Hale also wrote the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Turkey by the numbers

  • 248 million turkeys were raised in 2011 – More than one turkey for every two people in the U.S.
  • Total weight of turkeys raised in 2012: 7 billion pounds. That’s nearly the weight of ten Empire State Buildings
  • Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana produce almost 2/3 of the turkeys in the U.S.
  • In 2009, the average American ate 13.3 pounds of turkey
  • The cost of the average Thanksgiving dinner for ten people is $49.20.
  • At only $5 per person, this is a celebratory meal everyone can be thankful for

Myth Busting

Tryptophan is an amino acid found in turkey meat and I widely believed to be the cause of the post-Thanksgiving meal coma. However, the tryptophan levels in turkey are comparable to other meats. It’s more likely the large intakes of carbohydrates and subsequent release of melatonin that causes drowsiness.

Holiday shopping

The day after Thanksgiving has been dubbed “Black Friday” by retailers, and is the biggest shopping day of the year. In 20122, Thanksgiving weekend retail sales totaled $52.4 billion.

Travel by the miles

Thanksgiving is one of the most travel-heavy times of the year. 56% of drivers will travel at least 100 miles, with the average long distance trip length being 214 miles. About 91% of Thanksgiving trips are made by car. In 2012, 24 million people traveled by plane during the Thanksgiving season.

Five busiest airports during Thanksgiving travel

  1. O’Hare International, Chicago
  2. LA International, Los Angeles
  3. Logan International, Boston
  4. LaGuardia Airport, NYC
  5. San Francisco International, San Francisco

According to, an impressive 90% of Hawaiian Airlines’ Thanksgiving flights arrive on schedule.

Business travel, which accounts for about 17% of travel during the year, drops to about 7% during Thanksgiving.

Tell us: How are you spending your Thanksgiving? Do any of these statistics hold true for you?

Join us as we take the pledge to spend quality time with our loved ones rather than our devices on Thanksgiving!

Spread the word!
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