Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday–a fixture in American cultural identity–that truly reflects the unique melting pot of our nation’s history–a merging of different cultures and religious practices.
For a holiday spanning over 400 years, it’s surprising how many traditions remain–sharing what we are grateful for over a bounty of turkey, corn, pumpkin, potatoes, and cranberries. Over the years, new traditions have emerged–football, watching the Macy’s parade, and the recent addition of Friendsgiving and Black Friday shopping. Who knows what’s next?
Maybe you’re a Thanksgiving aficionado or maybe you just want to kill time–regardless, you’ll enjoy these challenging trivia questions!
55 Challenging Thanksgiving Trivia Questions and Answers
What Native American festivals served as precursors to our Thanksgiving Day as we know it?
Answer: Native American harvest festivals, such as the Cherokee Green Corn Dance
What European Colonial services served as precursors to Thanksgiving, before the Pilgrim’s thankful harvest celebration in 1621?
Answer: British colonists held several religious services in America to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in the Americas
Why is the Plymouth Pilgrims’ 1623 Celebration of Thanksgiving considered the origin of our Thanksgiving Day?
Answer: This 1623 festival combined a religious and social celebration to give thanks
Who participated in the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: The Plymouth Pilgrims and Native Americans, primarily from the Wampanoag tribe
Which citizen can we credit for the establishment of an annual Thanksgiving holiday?
Answer: Sarah Josepha Hale
How did an editor of a lady’s magazine establish Thanksgiving as a formal annual holiday?
Answer: Sarah Josepha Hale spent 36 years writing recipes for Thanksgiving, while writing letters to senators, governors, and presidents, until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day an annual holiday
Which president established Thanksgiving Day as a holiday that would be celebrated every 4th Thursday of November?
Answer: Abraham Lincoln
Since the formal establishment of Thanksgiving Day, have there been any instances where the observed day was changed?
Answer: Yes, FDR changed the holiday in 1939 and 1940 to be the 3rd Thursday of November
Why did FDR change the observed day of Thanksgiving?
Answer: To give merchants more time to sell products for Christmas during the depression
Why were people upset that FDR changed the observed day of Thanksgiving?
Answer: It caused conflicts with rescheduling Thanksgiving Day football games and parades
Why did football become associated with Thanksgiving Day traditions?
Answer: The Intercollegiate Football Association played a championship game on Thanksgiving in 1876. By 1893, the New York Herald called Thanksgiving the official holiday for watching football. Then the NFL played its first game on Thanksgiving Day in 1920
Where does the tradition of breaking the wishbone on Thanksgiving come from?
Answer: In ancient Italy, people believed that birds possessed divine powers and pulling apart the clavicle and receiving the larger portion could allow you to tap into some of that divine power
When did Macy’s hold their first Thanksgiving Day parade?
Why did Macy’s throw their first Thanksgiving Day parade?
Answer: Macy’s wanted to celebrate the opening of their store, which they claimed was the “World’s Largest Store” in preparation for Christmas
Who was the first president to pardon a Turkey on Thanksgiving?
Answer: George H.W. Bush
When was the first turkey pardoned by a president?
When did “Friendsgiving” become a term used to describe Thanksgiving celebrations exclusively with one’s friends?
Origins of Thanksgiving Foods
Where did most of the food we eat at Thanksgiving today originate from?
Answer: Mexico and South America
How did turkey make its way to the Eastern United States?
Answer: Europeans likely brought them to the Eastern U.S., from their travels to Mexico
Where did potatoes originate from?
Answer: Potatoes were domesticated in South America about 10,000 years ago
How did potatoes become a staple in Thanksgiving dinner?
Answer: After visiting South America, Spaniards integrated potatoes as a staple crop in Europe; as such, when Europeans came to the Eastern U.S., they brought one of their favorite crops–potatoes
Where did squash and pumpkins originate from?
Answer: Mexico, the eastern U.S., and the Ozarks
Where did corn come from?
Where do cranberries come from?
Answer: Cranberries are native to the United States, specifically the New England region
Who were the first people to use cranberries for food?
Answer: Native Americans
Why are cranberries called cranberries?
Answer: European settlers originally called them “craneberries,” because they thought the berries resembled a crane
What other name did cranberries have and why?
Answer: They were called “bearberries” in the 1600s, because bears were frequently seen snacking on them
Food on the First Thanksgiving
What kinds of meats did they have on the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: Some sort(s) of fowl–possibly turkey, but ducks, geese, and swans were also likely–as well as deer and seafood
What kinds of seafood was served at the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: Mussels, oysters, lobster, clams, and seabass were likely served, due to the bountiful seafood in the region
What kinds of vegetables were included in the first Thanksgiving feast?
Answer: Onions, beans, lettuce, spanish, cabbage, carrots, and peas
What was likely used to stuff and flavor the birds on the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: Herbs, onions, and nuts
How did they prepare corn on the first thanksgiving?
Answer: They turned the corn into cornmeal, which was then boiled and smashed into a thick mush/porridge that may have been served with molasses
What kinds of fruits were included in the first Thanksgiving feast?
Answer: Fruits indigenous to the region, namely cranberries, gooseberries, raspberries, plums, and grapes
When did cranberry sauce become a staple in Thanksgiving feasts?
Answer: About 50 years later, when sugar became more readily available, so cooks starts boiling cranberries and mixing them with sugar, to make a jam/sauce to pair with meats
Were mashed potatoes served at the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: We cannot say for sure if potatoes were served mashed, but potatoes were certainly a staple at the first Thanksgiving
Was pumpkin pie served at the first Thanksgiving?
Answer: Some ingredients were lacking in order to make a pie, but by some accounts, some of the settlers made an improvised pumpkin pie hollowing out pumpkins, filing the shells with milk, honey, and spices in order to make a custard, then roasting them whole
Thanksgiving Day Statistics 2022
On average, how much will the host spend on Thanksgiving Dinner preparations?
On average, how many hours will the host spend preparing Thanksgiving Dinner?
Answer: 9.6 hours
How much money did people spend online on Thanksgiving Day in 2021?
Answer: $5.1 Billion
What is the average cost of a 16-pound frozen turkey?
What percentage of Americans plan to get takeout from a restaurant or go out to eat this Thanksgiving?
Who serves the world’s most expensive Thanksgiving dinner?
Answer: New York City’s Old Homestead Steakhouse
What is the average number of guests attending a Thanksgiving dinner?
What percentage of Americans plan to have turkey this Thanksgiving?
Second to pumpkin, what is the most common pie flavor served at Thanksgiving?
Answer: Apple pie
What is the average number of drinks consumed per person on Thanksgiving?
How many people watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year?
Answer: Over 50 million
What percentage of Americans plan on traveling for Thanksgiving this year?
Are more people planning on driving or flying for their Thanksgiving travels this year?
What is the first thing that most people say they are thankful for on Thanksgiving?