Thanksgiving is primarily about the great food on our tables and thanking Lord Almighty for the same. For almost everyone celebrating this wonderful festival it might seem to be rather familiar but it also needs to be understood that like every other festival in the world the traditions of this festival, which have been passed down generations, have changed time and again in order to fit in with the milieu where the festival is being celebrated. This day is also known as Turkey Day and there is a significant possibility that all its beliefs and traditions have undergone a complete change in order to fit the needs of the present era.
Thanksgiving was not always about heavy eating
The first thing that one notices about Thanksgiving is the huge amount of food involved. The basic idea is that on this day the whole family gets together and all the relatives cook together. There are delicacies like turkey wings and a few drinks here and there. However, Thanksgiving did not start off as such. In fact, food was not part of the festivities till the seventeenth century. Till this time the festival was more rooted in religion and people were meant to reflect on their own lives on this day. There was also the small matter of fasting!
Sarah Joseph Hale invented the modern Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving, as we know, was invented by a lady named Sarah Joseph Hale during the nineteenth century. She was a book editor and wrote ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. She came across a book, which had a passage that described a fantastic meal its writer had following a fantastic harvest. This included four huge turkeys that were shared with Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe. The passage inspired her enough to fill magazines with recipes for pumpkin pie and stuffed turkey that were to be used for traditional festivities. It needs to be noted that nowhere in the passage was the traditional Thanksgiving food mentioned. She also wrote several editorials where she mentioned how important it was to recognize the day. Her writings acted as an inspiration for many decorated stories as well as paintings on the subject of the first Thanksgiving meal. For five years she also sent petitions to Abraham Lincoln to mark it as a federal holiday. It was in 1863 that the first official Thanksgiving proclamation was announced by Lincoln thus making it an official holiday.
The Turkey: An American Story
Even as Hale’s efforts to make the holiday official came to public attention, homemakers around the U.S. started to come up with their recipes for the holiday and the original story behind the same also became somewhat fabricated. Incidentally, in all her efforts to promote the festival Hale made no comment about pilgrims. In the book ‘The Turkey: An American Story’ it is said that she – in one of her editorials – uses the words pilgrim’s fathers to describe the people who helped put together the meal. That is the closest one comes to the word pilgrim. However, other magazines and editorials hooked on to the word and started to use it to cook up a story. It became a legend when it became a part of school textbooks.
There is no historic evidence of the first Thanksgiving
Historians do not have much knowledge about the first official Thanksgiving. The one passage that Hale read is the only one of its kind considering the violent history between the settlers and the indigenous population. One of the major reasons that the story gained so much popularity was the considerable migration of British, European, and Irish people who needed to be conveyed the peaceful history of their new home. In that sense, the story was more about maintaining proper public relations rather than being a historic anecdote.
An Unthanksgiving Day is celebrated by Native Americans at Alcatraz
With greater popularity of the story of pilgrims sharing their meal with the Native Americans, people started to view the history of the U.S. in a different light and this affected the indigenous people in a bad way. During November 1969 several Indians occupied Alcatraz Island. They wanted to reclaim that area for their own people and also get federal funding that would allow them to build a university and a cultural complex. By the next Thanksgiving Day the movement drew hundreds of supporters. The movement went on for 19 months before electrical power and food supplies ran out. Majority of the protesters left the movement and the final 15 people were evicted by force. Ever since, Native Americans celebrate the Sunrise Gathering, also known as Unthanksgiving Day, to mark the original protest and efforts to reclaim their heritage.
Truman was not the first to grant the Presidential Turkey pardon
President George HW Bush was the first President to have granted pardon to a turkey that had been sent to him for the Thanksgiving dinner to be celebrated at the White House. The incident happened in 1989. He vowed that the said bird will not be killed for his family’s dinner. Instead, he allowed it to live as long as it could at a farm located nearby. Ever since, all such turkeys are sent to petting zoos and farms. However, they do not live long as commercially-reared turkeys are not capable of dealing with sickness and disease.
All Turkeys do not gobble
It is common to see before and during Thanksgiving that kids make turkeys from construction paper and paste them on their fridges. They also write the word gobble on these turkeys using word bubbles. However, in actuality, only male turkeys use the gobble sound. This sound is used in order to proclaim supremacy and claim territories. It also attracts the hens and is used as a reflex sound.
You don’t feel sleepy because of Thanksgiving Turkey
Quite often people go to sleep after consuming a whole heap of turkey meat accompanied by wine. In such cases, it is common for people to blame the tryptophan in the turkey. However, it needs to be understood that in such cases the concerned individual’s health and the alcohol are the major reasons for the individual falling asleep. Even though purified tryptophan can put one to sleep, as per National Geographic, the tryptophan in turkey is not strong enough to do so. Under normal circumstances, you need to consume the protein on empty stomach for it to induce sleep. Even in that case, before the tryptophan has any effect the amino acids contained in the protein could reach the brain. In fact, when compared to soybeans or beef, turkey does not have much tryptophan.
Thanksgiving invented TV dinners
Not everyone in the U.S. is able to have a grand Thanksgiving dinner that can lead to cardiac arrests. There are a lot of people who feel happy with a frozen meal comprising turkey and other delicacies – one that can be roasted before the festivities commence. This rather common American meal has its origins in Thanksgiving as well. Gourmet Magazine states that during the 1950s a company named C.A. Swanson & Sons – dealing in frozen foods – had 260 tons of turkey in the reserve. It was then that a salesman came up with a brilliant idea. At that time Pan Am Airlines had been testing a foil tray to serve meals to their passengers. The salesman borrowed one such tray, froze the meat along with other dishes, and thus was born the concept of a TV Brand Frozen Dinner. The first such dinner was sold in 1954 at 98 cents and it was made up of turkey, peas, cornbread stuffing, and sweet potatoes. In 1960, a dessert was added to the mix.
Libby’s Pumpkin Pies Does Not Have Pumpkin
One cannot imagine a Thanksgiving Dinner sans dessert, and pumpkin pie seems to be one of the most-preferred desserts of this festival. When it comes to pumpkin pie Libby’s of Nestle seems to rule the roost. Their basic ingredient is however not pumpkin but a special strain named The Select Dickinson. It is more of a squash than a pumpkin. It has a tanned exterior and an orange flesh that is meant to be in tune with the festival. It is sweeter than actual pumpkin and is more meaty and filling. The whip topping, which so many people like, is not made using cream in reality.