Putting the Thanks in Thanksgiving
All of us at Back in the Day want to wish you and yours the best Thanksgiving Day and weekend ever. In preparation for the holiday we were looking into how Thanksgiving actually came about. To quote the famous Beatle Paul McCartney, it was a “Long and Winding Road” to come into being.
Apparently holiday festivals had been popular in Europe for centuries and sometimes lasted for days. So it wasn’t too surprising that our founding fathers (and mothers) looked to establish a harvest festival in their new country. The interesting thing was that without any way to easily communicate with each other, there were holiday festivals all up and down the East Coast of America on widely varying dates throughout the harvest season. I suppose that’s not unlike counties having their own county fairs.
So what we have come to call Thanksgiving Day can probably be traced back to a three day long harvest festival that occurred in 1621 and was celebrated by Pilgrims (residents of Plymouth) and some local Indians whose names I can’t pronounce. But it certainly did not look like any of the pictures that typically depict the scene of that historic occasion. We’ll touch on a few things that were probably different.
For one thing, there wouldn’t have been any turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberries or stuffing. They most likely ate nuts, corn, duck, goose or passenger pigeon along with assorted seafood – depending on how close they were to water. Forks had not been invented yet so they ate everything with spoons and knives. The Pilgrims were most likely not dressed in black because that was the most expensive kind of cloth. And it is highly unlikely that any of their Indian buddies would have been in loin cloths considering it was late November in New England.
So we have Sarah Josepha Hale (of Mary Had A Little Lamb fame) to thank for our current Thanksgiving national holiday. Sarah was a magazine editor in New England and spent 17 years of her life campaigning for a national Thanksgiving holiday. She wrote dozens of letters to five different Presidents: Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and of course, Abraham Lincoln.
It was Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 but no one paid any attention to it because the country was in the middle of a civil war. It has been suggested that at the holiday’s inception hardly anyone beyond Sarah Hale and her friends and relatives observed the first few Thanksgiving days. So that describes the humble beginnings of how what is now one of our most popular holidays came to be.
So turn on the TV and pass the stuffing and cherish the time with close family and friends but never forget that every day is thanksgiving day because “Thanksgiving is thanks living” when we take the time to be grateful for everything we have.
Best wishes always!
The Back in the Day Team