In a few days’ time, we will be eating roasted turkey and celebrating Thanksgiving with our family. The tradition dates back to the Pilgrims, who helped establish Plymouth Colony in 1620 in what is now Massachusetts. Massachusetts sat down for a three-day meal with the Wampanoag but the meal wasn’t the meaningful symbol of peace that it was later portrayed to be rather it was likely just a routine English harvest celebration. The history of Thanksgiving has been muddled, debunked, and rewritten throughout history, but here’s why we carve a turkey and mash more potatoes each year.
How Thanksgiving became a modern holiday
As the years passed by, the word “thanksgiving” changed in meaning. In the original tradition, the days of thanksgiving typically were marked by religious services to give thanks to God or to celebrate a bountiful harvest.
Thanksgiving days were usually declared by governors or priests and George Washington frequently declared days of thanksgiving during his tenure as general of the Continental Army. When he became the president, he proclaimed the first national day of Thanksgiving. Many subsequent presidents ignored the tradition, until President Abraham Lincoln again established Thanksgiving as a national holiday during the CivilWar, cementing the feast as an American tradition. Johnson says that declaration marked the switch from random feast days, some marking the fall harvest, to a national holiday. President Franklin Roosevelt tried to move it up a week in hopes of allowing more time for Christmas shopping and stimulating the post-Depression economy.
For many who celebrate now, the holiday has become an excuse to gather with family and eat good food.
How turkey took the center stage
Way back in 1621, the harvest celebration had a menu of venison, corn, shellfish, cornmeal, beans, nuts, dried berries, pumpkin, and of course turkey. Turkey is one of the Thanksgiving dishes that can easily be traced to the first Thanksgiving. The pilgrims and Native Americans likely hunted and served wildfowl, like geese, duck, or turkey. The native, large bird was relatively easy to capture, so it quickly became an important source of food for early American settlers.
It’s unclear though if the turkey was roasted on a spit, braised, or boiled in a large kettle at that harvest gathering like the methods for cooking that were recorded later. But it’s likely that the remains of whatever birds were roasted one day were thrown in a pot and boiled to make a broth for the next day, similar to gravy. The custom of snapping the turkey’s wishbone, bringing luck to the person who gets the larger half, can be traced back to the Romans.
Crimes on Thanksgiving
We should still be cautious even when we are on holiday as crimes still arise. One of which is DUI because of alcohol consumption as parties and drinking are unavoidable. Net is burglary as people might take this opportunity because some families might be out of town. Best to make your home look occupied to avoid potential break-ins and to make sure to lock all the doors.