135 Amazing Facts for People Who Like Amazing Facts

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Store these away for future trivia nights.

1. Mister Rogers always mentioned out loud that he was feeding his fish because a young blind viewer once asked him to do so. She wanted to know the fish were OK.

Getty Images

2. Boring, Oregon and Dull, Scotland have been sister cities since 2012. In 2017, they added Bland Shire, Australia to their "League of Extraordinary Communities."

iStock

3. Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt once sneaked out of a White House event, commandeered an airplane, and went on a joyride to Baltimore.

Amelia Earhart
Getty Images

4. If you have the feeling you’ve experienced an event before in real life, call it déjà vu. If you feel like you’ve previously experienced an event in a dream instead, there’s a different term for it: déjà rêvé.

iStock

5. During Prohibition, moonshiners would wear "cow shoes." The fancy footwear left hoofprints instead of footprints, helping distillers and smugglers evade police.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

6. Since founding the Imagination Library in 1995, Dolly Parton has donated 100 million books to children.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

7. The 100 folds in a chef's toque are said to represent 100 ways to cook an egg.

iStock

8. In curling, good sportsmanship and politeness are essential. Congratulating opponents and abstaining from trash talk are part of what's known as the "Spirit of Curling."

Throwing curling stone across the ice.
Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

9. In 1974, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis published a paper titled "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of 'Writer's Block.'" It contained a total of zero words.

iStock

10. Guinness estimates that 93,000 liters of beer are lost in facial hair each year in the UK alone.

iStock

11. George Washington served an eggnog-like drink to visitors at Mount Vernon. His recipe included rye whiskey, rum, and sherry.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

12. Some cats are allergic to humans.

13. Queen Elizabeth II is a trained mechanic.

Queen Elizabeth II
Getty Images

14. Volvo gave away the 1962 patent for their revolutionary three-point seat belt for free, in order to save lives.

Volvo logo
OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

15. Tsundoku is the act of acquiring books and not reading them.

16. Ravens in captivity can learn to talk better than parrots.

iStock

17. Bela Lugosi was buried in full Dracula costume—cape and all.

18. Central Park's lampposts contain a set of four numbers that can help you navigate. The first two tell you the nearest street, and the next two tell you whether you're closer to the east or west side of the park (even numbers signal east, odd signals west).

Central Park
iStock

19. A teacher wrote of a young Roald Dahl on his school report card: "I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended."

Getty Images

20. The only Blockbuster store in the world that is still operating is in Bend, Oregon.

21. Blood donors in Sweden receive a thank you text when their blood is used.

iStock

22. Kea parrots warble together when they're in a good mood, making them the first known non-mammal species to communicate with infectious laughter.

iStock

23. Long before rap battles, there was "flyting": the exchange of witty, insulting verses. The verbal throwdowns were popular in England and Scotland from the 5th to 16th centuries.

Scotland flag
iStock

24. Melbourne gave some of its trees email addresses so residents could report problems. Instead, the trees received love letters.

Trees
iStock

25. An estimated 1 million dogs in the U.S. have been named primary beneficiary in their owners' wills.

Captain dog
iStock

26. At Petrified Forest National Park, visitors sometimes break the rules (and the law) by taking rocks home with them. According to rangers, they often end up returning the stolen goods in the mail—along with an apology note.

Petrified Forest National Park
iStock

27. The Russians showed up 12 days late to the 1908 Olympics in London because they were using the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.

Olympic Rings
LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

28. Maya Angelou was the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

Maya Angelou
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

29. In Japan, letting a sumo wrestler make your baby cry is considered good luck.

Sumo wrestlers making babies cry (for luck!)
Junko Kimura/Getty Images

30. J.K. Simmons has been the voice of the Yellow Peanut M&M since the late 1990s.

J.K. Simmons
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

31. Count von Count's love of numbers isn't just a quirky character trait—in traditional vampire folklore, the bloodsuckers have arithmomania, a compulsion to count.

Count von Count
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

32. In Great Britain and Japan, black cats are perceived as auspicious. In the English Midlands, new brides are given black cats to bless their marriage, and the Japanese believe that black cats are good luck—particularly for single women.

Black cat
iStock

33. Portland was named by a coin flip. Had the coin landed the other way, the city would be Boston, Oregon.

Portland, Oregon
iStock

34. During World War I, a Canadian soldier made a black bear his pet and named her Winnipeg. “Winnie” was later a resident of the London Zoological Gardens where she was an adored attraction, especially to a boy named Christopher Robin, son of author A.A. Milne. The boy even named his teddy bear after her.

Christopher Robin Milne
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

35. Sleep literally cleans your brain. During slumber, more cerebrospinal fluid flushes through the brain to wash away harmful proteins and toxins that build up during the day.

Sleeping
iStock

36. Neil Armstrong's astronaut application arrived a week past the deadline. A friend slipped the tardy form in with the others.

37. Due to the restaurant's reputation for staying open in extreme weather, the so-called “Waffle House Index” is informally used by FEMA to gauge storm severity.

Waffle House
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

38. The first sales pitch for the Nerf ball was “Nerf: You can’t hurt babies or old people!”

Nerf
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

39. The manchineel tree is nicknamed the "Tree of Death" for good reason: Touching it can leave chemical burns on your skin, its fruit is toxic, and its bark—when burned—can cause blindness.

Manchineel Tree, Mustique
Jason English/Mustique

40. If drivers adhere to the 45 mph speed limit on a stretch of Route 66 in New Mexico, the road's rumble strips will play a rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Route 66
iStock

41. Russian cosmonauts used to pack a shotgun in case they landed in Siberia and had to fend off bears.

Siberia
Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

42. Space has a distinct smell: a bouquet of diesel fumes, gunpowder, and barbecue. The aroma is mostly produced by dying stars.

Space
NASA/ESA via Getty Images

43. Before settling on the Seven Dwarfs we know today, Disney considered Chesty, Tubby, Burpy, Deafy, Hickey, Wheezy, and Awful.

Seven Dwarfs
Ryan Wendler/Disney Parks via Getty Images

44. The annual number of worldwide shark bites is 10 times less than the number of people bitten by other people in New York.

Shark fin
iStock

45. In 1997 a Louisville woman left actor Charles Bronson all of her money in a handwritten will—a total of about $300,000. She'd never met him; she was just a fan.

ISTOCK

46. Carly Simon's dad is the Simon of Simon and Schuster. He co-founded the company.

Carly Simon
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

47. Ben & Jerry learned how to make ice cream by taking a $5 correspondence course offered by Penn State. (They decided to split one course.)

Ben & Jerry
ADE JOHNSON/AFP/Getty Images

48. After an online vote in 2011, Toyota announced that the official plural of Prius was Prii.

Prii
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

49. At the 1905 wedding of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt gave away the bride.

Teddy Roosevelt
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

50. Tootsie Rolls were added to soldiers' rations in World War II for their durability in all weather conditions.

Halloween Candy
iStock

51. When Canada's Northwest Territories considered renaming itself in the 1990s, one name that gained support was "Bob."

Skyline, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
iStock

52. After OutKast sang "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," Polaroid released a statement: "Shaking or waving can actually damage the image."

Polaroid
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

53. Marie Curie remains the only person to earn Nobel prizes in two different sciences.

Marie Curie
Keystone/Getty Images

54. The Starry Night depicts Vincent van Gogh's view from the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum.

Starry Night
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

55. The ampersand symbol is formed from the letters in et—the Latin word for "and."

Ampersand
iStock

56. Army ants that misinterpret the scent trails left by other ants will sometimes break from the crowd and march in circles. If enough ants join, they can form massive "death spirals."

Army ants
iStock

57. A solar eclipse helped end a six-year war in 585 BCE. When the sky suddenly darkened during a battle between the Lydians and the Medes in modern Turkey, soldiers took it as a sign to cease fighting.

Solar Eclipse 2017
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

58. Wendy's founder Dave Thomas dropped out of high school but earned his GED in 1993. His GED class voted him Most Likely to Succeed.

Dave Thomas
Mike Simons/Getty Images

59. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826—exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence
Chris Hondros/Newsmakers

60. Dogs are capable of understanding up to 250 words and gestures. The average dog is as intelligent as a two-year-old child.

Smart dog
iStock

61. Bubbles keep your bath water warmer longer.

Bath
iStock

62. Scientists have found evidence of take-out restaurants in the remains of Pompeii.

Pompeii
iStock

63. Fried chicken was brought to America by Scottish immigrants.

Fried chicken
iStock

64. Peter Durand patented the tin can in 1810. Ezra Warner patented a can opener in 1858. In between, people used chisels and hammers.

Can opener
iStock

65. There are 71 streets in Atlanta with "Peachtree" in their name.

Peachtree Street
iStock

66. Goats have rectangular pupils.

Goat eyes
iStock

67. The bend in a flamingo's leg isn't a knee—it's an ankle.

Flamingo
iStock

68. In 1946, Boston owner Walter Brown chose the nickname Celtics over Whirlwinds, Olympians, and Unicorns.

Kyrie Irving
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

69. After It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown aired, Charles Schulz was overwhelmed with candy shipments sent from kids who were concerned for Charlie, who got rocks instead of treats in his Halloween sack.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for DIFF

70. One of the world's largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons—a U.S. Navy base near Seattle—is partially defended by trained dolphins.

Dolphin
iStock

71. It's illegal for supermarkets in France to waste food. Supermarkets must either compost it or donate unsold or nearly expired goods to charity.

Produce
iStock

72. Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.

Pringles
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

73. A new baby can cost new parents 750 hours of sleep in the first year.

Crying baby
iStock

74. In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted that by 2000, Americans would only be working 20 hours a week with seven weeks vacation.

Cheers
iStock

75. For one day in 1998, Topeka, Kansas, renamed itself "ToPikachu" to mark Pokemon's U.S. debut.

Pikachu
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

76. Truman Capote said he was the only person who'd met John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Sirhan Sirhan.

Truman Capote
Evening Standard/Getty Images

77. Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election. She never paid the fine.

Susan B. Anthony
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

78. Canned pumpkin isn't actually pumpkin. Even purees that advertise as "100 percent pumpkin" are actually made of a range of different winter squashes.

Pumpkin
iStock

79. When Gene Wilder accepted the role of Willy Wonka, he had one condition: In his first appearance, Wilder wanted Wonka to limp toward the crowd with a cane in hand before falling into a perfect somersault and jumping back up. The reason? “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

Willy Wonka
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

80. Dr. Seuss said he expected to spend "a week or so" writing The Cat in the Hat. It actually took a year and a half.

Dr. Seuss / Hollywood Walk of Fame
Vince Bucci/Getty Images

81. The Reese in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups is Harry Burnett Reese, a former Hershey employee who created his famous candy in the 1920s.

Reese's
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

82. The plural of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac.

Cul-de-sac
iStock

83. Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt was allergic to moon dust.

Harrison Schmitt
AFP/Getty Images

84. At the Gettysburg reunion in 1913, two men purchased a hatchet, walked to the site where their regiments had fought, and buried it.

Gettysburg at 50
Library of Congress

85. "Bloodcurdling" isn't just an expression: Research shows that watching horror movies can increase a certain clotting protein in our bloodstreams.

Scary movie
iStock

86. An episode of Peppa Pig was pulled from Australian television for teaching children not to fear spiders.

Peppa Pig
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

87. A group of pugs is called a grumble.

Grumble of pugs
iStock

88. Before he wrote Goosebumps, R.L. Stine wrote the jokes for Bazooka Joe wrappers.

R.L. Stine
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

89. In 1998, the U.S. Army tried developing a telepathic ray gun "where words could be transmitted to be heard like the spoken word, except that it could only be heard within a person’s head."

Man covering face
iStock

90. In 1967, the Nigerian Civil War ground to a halt for two days because both sides wanted to watch Pelé play in an exhibition soccer match.

Pele
STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

91. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

Welcome to Brooklyn
iStock

92. Jim Cummings is the voice of Winnie the Pooh. He calls sick kids in hospitals and chats with them in character.

Jim Cummings
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

93. Before Google launched Gmail, "G-Mail" was the name of a free email service offered by Garfield's website.

Garfield looming
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

94. Before the Nazis invaded Paris, H.A. and Margret Rey fled on bicycles. They were carrying the manuscript for Curious George.

Curious George
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

95. In colonial America, lobster wasn't exactly a delicacy. It was so cheap and plentiful it was often served to prisoners.

Lobster
iStock

96. Crayola means "oily chalk." The name combines craie (French for "chalk") and ola (short for "oleaginous," or "oily").

Oily chalk
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

97. Truman Show Delusion is a mental condition marked by a patient's belief that he or she is the star of an imaginary reality show.

Truman Show
Getty Images

98. Cookie Monster is not changing his name. In a 2012 episode he said, "We've got to stop this Veggie Monster rumor before me reputation ruined."

Cookie Monster and Elmo
Gail Oskin/Getty Images

99. Google's founders were willing to sell to Excite for under $1 million in 1999—but Excite turned them down.

Excite@Home
David McNew/Newsmakers

100. The medical term for ice cream headaches is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Ice cream
iStock

101. Although Dr. James Naismith invented basketball, he’s the only Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach with a losing record.

Kansas Jayhawks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

102. Wisconsin is the Badger State because the area's lead miners used to spend winters in tunnels burrowed into hills. Like badgers.

Badger
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

103. In 1999, the U.S. government paid the Zapruder family $16 million for the film of JFK's assassination.

JFK in Dallas
Keystone/Getty Images

104. Before he became president, Abraham Lincoln was wrestling champion of his county. He fought in nearly 300 matches and lost only one.

Young Lincoln
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

105. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know. But on average, a Licking Machine made at Purdue needed 364.

Tootsie Pops
Mental Floss

106. Barcelona is home to hundreds of playgrounds for seniors. The spaces are meant to promote fitness and combat loneliness in elderly citizens.

Playground for seniors
iStock

107. In Switzerland, it's illegal to own only one guinea pig.

Guinea pigs
iStock

108. After leaving office, Ronald Reagan was offered the role of Hill Valley's mayor in Back to the Future III.

President Reagan waves goodbye
The White House/Getty Images

109. Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare side effect of brain trauma. Patients speak their native language in a foreign accent.

iStock

110. Queen Elizabeth II has had over 30 corgis in her lifetime.

STF/AFP/Getty Images

111. Relative to their bodies, Chihuahuas have the biggest brain in the dog world.

One smart corgi
iStock

112. The "mystery" flavor of Dum Dums is a combination of the end of one batch of candy and the beginning of another.

Dum Dums Mystery Flavor
iStock

113. A banana is a berry.

iStock

114. In 1971, a Dallas man named Mariano Martinez invented the frozen margarita machine. The 26-year-old was inspired by the Slurpee machine at 7-Eleven.

Frozen margarita

115. In 2016, a rogue bloodhound named Ludvine joined a half-marathon in Alabama. She ran the entire 13.1 miles and finished in 7th place.

Bloodhound
iStock

116. The Library of Congress regularly receives requests for books that don't exist. The most common is the President's Book of Secrets, from the 2007 movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

117. In 2014, Tinder made its first match on the continent of Antarctica. Not surprisingly, both parties involved were research scientists.

Antarctica
VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

118. When times get tough, elephants will comfort each other by stroking loved ones with their trunks and emitting small chirps.

Elephants
iStock

119. A double rainbow occurs when sunlight is reflected twice inside a raindrop. If you look closely, you can see that the colors of the secondary rainbow appear in reverse order.

Double Rainbow
iStock

120. There's a Nikola Tesla statue in Palo Alto that provides free Wi-Fi.

Nikola Tesla statue
Mental Floss

121. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships are held in Finland. One winner (not pictured) said he prepared for the event by "mainly drinking."

VILLE MYLLYNEN/AFP/Getty Images

122. In the '50s, Marilyn Monroe promised nightclub owner Charlie Morrison she'd be in the front row every night if he booked Ella Fitzgerald. He agreed, and she was true to her word. "After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again," Fitzgerald said. "She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn't know it."

Marilyn
Baron/Getty Images

123. Frank Sinatra has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for film, one for music, and one for television.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

124. One April day in 1930, the BBC reported, "There is no news." Instead they played piano music.

There is no news
Keystone/Getty Images

125. Continental plates drift as fast as fingernails grow.

iStock

126. Elvis Presley's manager sold "I Hate Elvis" badges as a way to make money off of people who weren't buying his merchandise.

I Hate Elvis
Mental Floss

127. LEGO has a temperature-controlled underground vault in Denmark with nearly every set they've ever made.

Lego
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

128. A reindeer's eyes change color through the seasons. They’re gold during the summer and blue in the winter.

iStock

129. An avocado never ripens on the tree, so farmers can use trees as storage and keep avocados fresh for up to seven months.

iStock

130. At the Humane Society of Missouri, kid volunteers comfort anxious shelter dogs by reading to them.

iStock

131. In The Empire Strikes Back, an extra can be seen running with what appears to be an ice cream maker. The character became legendary among fans, and was eventually given a name (Willrow Hood) and a backstory.

Willrow Hood
Lucasfilm

132. Salvador Dali avoided paying restaurant tabs by using checks. He would draw on the back as the waiter watched, knowing no one would ever cash the art.

Wikimedia Commons

133. China owns all of the pandas in the world. They rent them out for about $1 million a year.

iStock

134. In season two of The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross created a monochromatic landscape for a viewer who was worried that his color blindness would prevent him from being able to paint.

Bob Ross
Robin Marchant/Getty Images

135. Bones found at Seymour Island indicate that at one time, 37 to 40 million years ago, penguins stood at a formidable 6 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds.

iStock

The History Behind 10 Thanksgiving Dishes

VeselovaElena/iStock via Getty Images
VeselovaElena/iStock via Getty Images

Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.

1. Turkey

A roasted turkey on a platter.
612645812/iStock.com

Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as … served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!

2. Stuffing

Pan of breaded stuffing.
mphillips007/iStock.com

Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.

3. Cranberries

Dish of cranberry sauce.
bhofack2/iStock.com

Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. Mashed Potatoes

Bowl of mashed potatoes.
bhofack2/iStock.com

Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting president to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.

5. Gravy

Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.
cislander/iStock.com

Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to create a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!

6. Corn

Plate of corn.
PeopleImages/iStock

Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.

7. Sweet Potatoes

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
bhofack2/iStock

In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.

8. Green Bean Casserole

Plate of green bean casserole.
DreamBigPhotos/iStock.com

Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you probably know was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at Campbells.com), contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.

9. Pumpkin Pie

Slice of pumpkin pie.
bhofack2/iStock.com

Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. Wine

Two glasses of wine.
Moncherie/iStock.com

Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER