Some Thanksgiving Trivia to Make Your Meal Less Awkward


Happy Thanksgiving! I’m taking the next two days off so today is an early version of my “Weekender” edition. I wasn’t sure what to do here — it’s a short week so a “Week in Review” doesn’t make a lot of sense — so I figured I’d share with you some Thanksgiving-themed trivia I’ve written about in the past. This way, when you’re eating dinner with others and someone starts talking about something awkward or controversial, you have something to randomly bring up in hopes of steering the conversation away from conflict. (For those outside the U.S., sorry! I know that you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so this isn’t all that useful for you, so I’ve tossed in some barely-related-to-Thanksgiving trivia, too.)  And sorry, no longread suggestions this week; the shorter week means I haven’t done as much reading!

Before I get to the Thanksgiving trivia, it’s the season of thanks, so: THANK YOU! Now I Know isn’t as much fun without people reading it, and I appreciate each and everyone one of you for taking the time to learn new things with me each day. Thank you for your notes, your support, and your time — it wouldn’t be the same without you.

Thanksgiving Trivia You May Have Missed

How Turkey Got Its Name: Turkey — the bird — is native to North America. But in the United States, it’s named after a country that is… not in North America. How did that happen? 

Brown Friday: The day after Thanksgiving is big business for retailers — and, it turns out, for plumbers. 

Trick-or-Treating… But on Thanksgiving?: When tomorrow was Halloween, basically.

When Elephants and Donkeys Fought Over Turkey: Perhaps this isn’t the best piece of trivia if you’re trying to avoid arguments over politics… but who knows. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, which is weird because sometimes Thanksgiving has five Thursdays. Here’s the story of how we ended up on that date, and how it became the basis for a political squabble.

Latkes and Turkeys: Speaking of the weird “fourth Thursday of November” date, in 2013, Thanksgiving and the Jewish holiday of Hannukah coincided. That’s rare — and it will likely never happen again. Here’s why.

Turkey Basters: The big problem with big turkeys for Thanksgiving.

The Forgotten History of Jingle Bells: It’s actually a Thanksgiving song.

The Nefarious Problem with Too Much Christmas Music: Not really a Thanksgiving story, but it’s the start of the Christmas music season, too. And this ties into the Jingle Bells trivia, so I included it here too.

Thanks For the Helium: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a cultural touchstone of the holiday. It features a lot of huge cartoon balloons, and you’ll never believe what they used to do with them after the parade was over.

And from earlier this week:

The Problem With, and Solution to, Too Much Turkey: What do you do with 260 tons of unsold frozen turkey meat?

Why Aluminum Foil Has a Shiny Side and a Not-Shiny Side: Not really Thanksgiving-related but cooking-related, and that’s a hallmark of the holiday, so, close enough!

And some other, non-Thanksgiving stories:

The Secret Life of F.D.C. Willard: On November 24, 1975 — that’s 47 years ago tomorrow if I did the math right (and that’s always dicey) — a professor named  J.H. Hetherington co-authored a paper with a curious collaborator, one who couldn’t do a lot of research, typing, or even coffee-making. And yet, that collaborator, F.D.C. Willard, saved Hetherington a lot of work. It’d explain more but it’d spoil the surprise.

The Failed Attempt to Create a Ten-Hour Day: Base-12 clocks are weird, and on November 24, 1793, France tried to implement a base-10 clock… and it didn’t take.

Have a great holiday weekend! I’ll be back on Monday