The bird was not the symbol of ‘Thanks’ for the beginning of our Harvest Fall Festival Holliday. This scrumptious bird was hunted for food by colonists in the early 1600s. However, it only became the meal of choice after President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. This was the same year of his famous Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery. Now all the official White House turkey birds are pardoned from being the center piece of the day’s culinary celebrations.
Originally, the Wampanoag Indians brought deer to the New England Pilgrims for the feast and the English provided fowl, duck and geese. Fish were also plentiful including clams and lobster. Native Americans were the majority at the earliest Thanksgiving for the Harvest. Twice as many attended along with 53 colonists.
The first Thanksgiving is identified as a 3 day feast in 1621, by Sarah Joseph Hale considered the “Godmother of Thanksgiving” for her written stories. Included on the table were cranberries that were very plentiful, and pumpkins baked in fire coals. There were no ovens, or butter and flour available for Pie. Squash was a common vegetable. Potatoes, sweet or otherwise, were not likely to be found. An interesting activity of the first gatherings were good natured ‘food fights’.
The Turkey was considered a large “respectable bird” as emphasized by Benjamin Franklin. He wanted to make it our National Symbol instead of the Bald Eagle. America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton sitting down to a turkey-less dinner at the turn of the 19th century remarked, “No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Turkey being numerous throughout New England became the main centerpiece of giving “Thanks.”
Today Thanksgiving Holidays emphasize renewed life by harvesting our bounty in the New World. Full bellies and lots of leftovers for days. We are truly grateful and blessed.
Photo from Deposit Photos