Thanksgiving by the Numbers

With Turkey Day almost upon us, it’s time to crunch the numbers on food, travel, football, parades, and Charlie Brown.


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We, as Americans, know that we, America, eat a lot on Thanksgiving. We know that there’s turkey and potatoes and dressing. And football and parades and travel. And we know that, inevitably, something goes wrong somewhere. But what does it all add up to? Here are the official numbers.

1. 46 Million Turkeys

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association expect the U.S. to consume 46 million turkeys this year. If every family had a 25-pound turkey, that would weigh out at 1.15 billion pounds of bird. The National Grocers Association says that 77 percent of all turkeys sold in the U.S. in a year are sold during November.

2. Pass the Potatoes

The NGA has a lot to say about sides, too. We will buy just under 214 million pounds of potatoes and an additional 50 million pounds of sweet potatoes. On a related note, Americans tend to buy around $30 million worth of deli-prepared mashed potatoes. That’s still less than the accompanying $37.4 million we spend on gravy mix and seasoning.

3. It’s Time for the 93rd Parade

2014 Thanksgiving Day parade
2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (NYC Russ /

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is scheduled to run for the 93rd time since its inaugural bow in 1924. The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 due to America’s involvement in World War II. More than 10,000 people, from balloon handlers to drivers, participate in the parade. Just under 24 million people watched last year on NBC; the annual follow-up program, The National Dog Show, featuring the soothing tones of John O’Hurley, pulled in 11.4 million viewers.

4. Are You Ready for Some Football? And Hockey?

Image of Ford Field
Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions (Katherine Welles /

The NFL has three games ready to go on Thanksgiving. The Chicago Bears play Turkey Day regulars the Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. EST on Fox. CBS has the Buffalo Bills facing off against the Dallas Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. EST. And the games wrap with the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons in prime-time on NBC. Last year’s Saints/Falcons prime-time contest pulled in 21.73 million viewers. The NHL has one game on Thanksgiving night, the New Jersey Devils versus the Montreal Canadiens on both the NHL Network and MSG+. The NBA has Thanksgiving off, but will offer five games on Christmas Day.

5. For the Popcorn and Toast Lovers

Image of a charlie brown balloon.
(Inspired By Maps /

If you want to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, you’re in luck. There’s no end of availability. It’s on ABC on Wednesday the 27th (aka the Night Before Thanksgiving), along with its frequent companion special, This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers. That all starts at 8 p.m. EST. For those wishing to watch on Thanksgiving day, you can find both specials on Amazon Prime Video. The pair are also offered together on DVD and Blu-ray.

6. Over the Highways and Through the Skies

Woman holding a passport while looking at flight departures in an airport.

AAA released their annual travel forecast on November 14. They project that 55 million people will be traveling, with 49.3 million people going by car (the biggest number in 14 years). AAA teamed with transportation analytics company INRIX to predict “major delays throughout the week,” with Wednesday the 27th being particularly bad. The AAA Newsroom site has a matrix of the worst travel times for some of the bigger cities in the country (for example, New Yorkers should be extra careful driving between 5:15pm and 7:15pm on Wednesday, while also expecting delays that are 3.5 times greater than normal travel times).

7. Black Thursday?

As you well know, the day after Thanksgiving has always marked the official start to the Christmas shopping season. While many retailers sit Thursday out, opening early with “Doorbuster” sales on Friday morning, some outlets like Walmart are choosing to get the commerce going at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening. Other stores like Kohl’s and Macy’s have online sales that begin earlier in the week. Amazon kicks off an entire week early, with specials beginning on November 22; they plan to reveal more on the 27th, Thanksgiving, and December 2 (the so-called Cyber Monday).

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our own Black Friday special, a year’s subscription to The Saturday Evening Post for $9.

8. Be Careful Out There

In 2016, over 36,000 people went to the emergency room on Thanksgiving. New York City doctors told Business Insider that ER visits go up by as much as 12 percent around the holidays. A variety of reasons factor into this uptick, and they include travel and weather-related injuries, cooking injuries, problems brought on by patients veering off of diets, outdoor-decorating accidents and falls, and people drinking too much. The baseline advice for staving off an unwanted medical detour is to simply watch what you eat and drink and generally be careful. An injury-free holiday is something that would make anyone give thanks.


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