U.S. Census Bureau 

Thanksgiving Day Facts from the U.S. Census Bureau

Fun Information about One of America's Favorite Holidays


November 24, 2016

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims - early settlers of Plymouth Colony - held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Many regard this event as the nation's first Thanksgiving.

The Wampanoag Indians in attendance played a key role. Historians have recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America. These include the British colonists in Virginia as early as 1619.

The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday 153 years ago (Oct. 3, 1863) when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving Day should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.

Where to Feast

118.3 million - The number of occupied housing units across the nation in the second quarter of 2016 - potential stops for Thanksgiving dinner.

4.6 million - The number of multigenerational households in the United States in 2015. It is possible these households, consisting of three or more generations, will have to purchase large quantities of food to accommodate all the family members sitting around the table for the holiday feast, even if there are no guests.

4 - The number of places in the United States named after the holiday's traditional main course. Turkey Creek village, La., had 444 residents in 2015, followed by Turkey city, Texas (396); Turkey Creek census designated place (CDP), Ariz. (351); and Turkey town, N.C. (296). There are also 11 townships in the United States with "Turkey" in the name. (Please note that the Turkey Creek CDP, Ariz., population total pertains to the 2010-2014 American Community Survey and is not statistically different from the population estimates of the other three places.)

7 - The number of places and townships in the United States named Cranberry, a popular side dish at Thanksgiving. Cranberry township (Butler County), Pa., was the most populous of these places in 2015, with 30,458 residents. Cranberry township (Venango County), Pa., was next with 6,513 residents.

33 - The number of counties, places and townships in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, the landing site of the first Pilgrims. The two counties named Plymouth, are in Massachusetts (510,393 residents) and Iowa (24,800 residents).

Plymouth city, Minn., is the most populous place, with 75,907 residents in 2015.

There is one township and one census designated place in the United States named Pilgrim: (1) a township in Dade County, Mo., had a population of 128 and (2) a census designated place in Michigan, had a population of 41. There are also Mayflower City, Ark., whose population was 2,431, and Mayflower Village, Calif., whose population was 5,779.

Participants in the First Feast

24.0 million - The number of U.S. residents of English ancestry as of 2015. Some could very well be descendants of the Plymouth colonists who participated in the autumn feast that is widely believed to be one of the first Thanksgivings, especially the 650,000 living in Massachusetts.

6,500 - The number of members of the Wampanoag American Indian tribal grouping as of 2010, roughly half of whom resided in Massachusetts. The Wampanoag were in attendance at the first Thanksgiving, playing a lead role in the historic event, and were essential to the survival of the colonists during the newcomers' first year.

Preparing the Feast ... Enjoying the Day ... and the Aftermath

98.6% - The percentage of households in 2011 with a gas or electric stove - essential for cooking their Thanksgiving feast. Another 96.8 percent had a microwave, also helpful in preparing the meal.

98.3% - The percentage of households with a television in 2011. No doubt, many guests either before, after or perhaps even during the feast will settle in front of their TVs to watch some football.

35.8% - The percentage of households with a stand-alone food freezer in 2011, which they may want to use to preserve their Thanksgiving leftovers. Far more (99.2 percent) have a refrigerator. Once all the guests leave, it will be time to clean up. Fortunately, 69.3 percent have a dishwasher to make the task easier.

Culinary Delights

65,975 - The number of supermarkets and other grocery (except convenience) stores in the United States in 2014. These establishments are expected to be extremely busy around Thanksgiving as people prepare for their delightful meals.

3,109 - The number of baked goods stores in the United States in 2014 - a potential place to visit to purchase tasty desserts.

2,798 - The number of fruit and vegetable markets in the United States in 2014 - a great place to find holiday side dishes.

243.0 million - The forecasted number of turkeys raised in the United States in 2016. That is up 4 percent from the number raised during 2015.

44.0 million - The forecasted number of turkeys raised in Minnesota in 2016. Minnesota topped in turkey production, followed by North Carolina (33.0 million), Arkansas (26.0 million), Indiana (20.0 million), Missouri (19.7 million) and Virginia (17.0 million).

$19.3 million - The value of U.S. imports of live turkeys in 2015, with 99.9 percent of them coming from Canada and the remaining from the United Kingdom. When it comes to sweet potatoes, the Dominican Republic was the source of 37.9 percent ($5.5 million) of total imports ($14.5 million). The United States ran a $10.6 million trade deficit in live turkeys during the period but had a surplus of $126.2 million in sweet potatoes.

859.0 million pounds - The forecasted weight of cranberries produced in the United States in 2016. Wisconsin was estimated to lead all states in the production of cranberries, with 521.0 million pounds, followed by Massachusetts (estimated at 207.0 million pounds). New Jersey, Oregon and Washington were also estimated to have substantial production, ranging from 19.4 to 58.8 million pounds.

3.1 billion pounds - The total weight of sweet potatoes - another popular Thanksgiving side dish - produced by major sweet potato producing states in 2015.

U.S. Census Bureau

The value of U.S. imports of live turkeys was $19.3 million in 2015, with 99.9 percent coming from Canada, according to the U.S. Import and Export Merchandise Trade Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Of other popular Thanksgiving dinner items, fresh cranberries are the highest import from Canada at $65.9 million. Sweet potatoes have the highest export value at $62.3 million for the United Kingdom.

Sources include census.gov, nmai.si.edu, and usda.gov.


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