Turkey, stuffing and tradition

Sarah Sztuk

Thanksgiving has become a holiday synonymous with a turkey dinner. However, beyond the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and family there is an important meaning in the tradition of Thanksgiving.

One part of Thanksgiving history started back when Harry Truman was President. He started the custom of pardoning a turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving during a White House ceremony.

The honored turkey is given to Kidwell Farm, which is a petting zoo in Herndon, Virginia. This one lucky turkey gets an official pardon during a ceremony that is part humor and part history.

Then, the turkey is brought to its new home in the Turkey Barn where it will live out its life and continue to exhibit the important history of this national holiday.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 in Plymouth, MA. The settlers of the Plymouth colony had lost almost half of their colonists during a severe winter.

Even with the harsh winter, the settlers were able to have a bountiful harvest of corn, wheat, and barley. Out of thanks, the governor of Plymouth, William Bradford, planned a festival to honor God for the survival of the colony.

The first Thanksgiving was a three day long celebration.

The menu consisted of a variety of foods such as duck, geese, turkey, clams, and eel. The women of the colony supervised the cooking of wild plums and leeks, corn bread, watercress and meat, while men shot the game.

About 90 Indians attended the festival and brought five deer with them to the feast. Everyone ate outdoors on large wooden tables where they were entertained with games and a military review.

Even though the custom spread from Plymouth to other New England colonies, no traditional date was set fourth for years to come.

During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln was looking for ways to unite the nation, so in order to gain unity he proclaimed the last Thursday of November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”

The tradition lasted for 75 years until 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to move Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November. This way he could prolong the Christmas shopping season and help out businesses.

Then, in 1941, Congress ruled that the fourth Thursday of November would be observed as Thanksgiving Day by making it a legal federal holiday.