In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims, early settlers of Plymouth Colony, held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation's first Thanksgiving . Historians have also recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Virginia in 1619. The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.
Thanksgiving Day by the numbers:
- 254 million: The number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in 2012. That is up 2 percent from the number raised during 2010.
- 1.1 billion pounds: Total production of pumpkins in the major pumpkin-producing states in 2011. Illinois led the country by producing an estimated 520 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, Pennsylvania and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced in the United States was $113 million.
- 768 million pounds: The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2012. Wisconsin is estimated to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 450 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (estimated at 210 million).
- 64,380: The number of grocery stores in the United States in 2010. These establishments are expected to be extremely busy around Thanksgiving, as people prepare for their delightful meals.
- 37: Number of places and townships in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, the landing site of the first Pilgrims. Plymouth, Minn., is the most populous, with 71,561 residents in 2011; Plymouth, Mass., had 56,767. There is just one township in the United States named Pilgrim. Located in Dade County, Mo., its population was 131 in 2011. And then there is Mayflower, Ark., whose population was 2,298 in 2011, and Mayflower Village, Calif., whose population was 5,515 in 2010.