The stores may already be decorated for Christmas and some radio stations may already be playing the same 50 Christmas songs, but Thanksgiving is still around the corner. Thanksgiving is the holiday where families come together and celebrate all they are thankful for. Declared as an official holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays with roots to this country’s history. Along with the history, and the gratitude of this holiday, the turkey is an essential part of Thanksgiving.
Ben Franklin favored the turkey over the bald eagle but since it didn’t end up being America’s national bird, how did it become the seasonal bird on our dinner plates? Turkeys probably weren’t the main course of the first Thanksgiving meal that took place between the pilgrims and indians in 1621. According to accounts from William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts, it stated in his journals that fowl, deer, or fish were served instead of turkey. But turkeys were indigenous to the Plymouth area which made them easy to come by.
Throughout the years, many traditions have changed. Whether people added dishes or took them away, there was always one constant thing in common. This begs the question, if deer and fish were most likely served at the first Thanksgiving, how has turkey remained the dominate food choice? Well, turkeys are more plentiful and can better feed an entire family. The convenience and bounty of this festive bird granted it the right to become the family favorite in the classic holiday tradition.
Another tradition that involves the turkey, is the pardoning of the turkey by the president. There are a few stories that deal with this ceremony. The first is a commonly told story about Abraham Lincoln and his unofficial pardoning of the turkey when his son, Tad, pleaded on behalf of the turkey’s life. Lincoln was going to have the turkey be prepared for a Christmas dinner when his son passionately stated that the turkey should have a chance to live. This tradition didn’t become official until George H.W. Bush declared that it become an annual ceremony after he performed the pardoning of the turkey in 1989.
Thanksgiving is a humbling holiday centered around food and family. Traditions span from watching the Macy’s Day parade and the football game, to eating cranberries and pumpkin pie. Turkeys are a huge part of Thanksgiving and they’ve spanned the history of America. Even if your Thanksgiving doesn’t include turkey, the important thing is that we give thanks, just like those who gave thanks throughout history.