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Marilyn Monroe Thanksgiving

American Potluck

Thanksgiving did not begin with the Pilgrims who settled along the northeast coast of North America in 1620. Back in England, where they came from, a thanksgiving harvest feast in November was a long-held tradition.

Nor was the idea of a thanksgiving feast new to the native Algonquin Indians who helped the struggling Pilgrim settlers adjust to the food sources of their new home. The Algonquins held at least five major thanksgiving festivals a year, beginning with a Maple Dance in late winter to celebrate when the sap began to run.

But when Captain Miles Standish, leader of the Pilgrims, invited Algonquin leaders and their families to join his group for a thanksgiving celebration something unique happened. The Pilgrims ran low on provisions and several Algonquins rushed home to fetch more food: five deer, several wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread and berries.

What began as a traditional Pilgrim thanksgiving became what was probably the first American pot luck and, consequently, the first true American Thanksgiving.


Sarah Hale

While the origins of Thanksgiving are disputed, there is no question that author and publisher Sarah Hale established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the U.S.

Author of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and editor of “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” Hale wrote numerous letters and editorials over the span of 40 years promoting a National Thanksgiving so that "the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.”

Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan all refused her plea.

In an 1859 editorial, as relations between the North and South were reaching a breaking point, Hale argued that a united day of Thanksgiving would help bring the country together: “There is a deep moral influence in these periodical seasons of rejoicing in which whole communities participate. They bring out …the best sympathies in our natures.”

In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln heeded Hale's request and proclaimed the permanent establishment of a national day of Thanksgiving.

Old Birds with Little Red Berries

Well, it's almost Turkey Day again.

Mmmm... roast turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

Yes, cranberry sauce -- the whole berry sauce, not the jellied kind. I love cranberry sauce with my turkey.

Portrait of Sarah Josepha (Buell) Hale, 1788-1879

Cranberries are a little red wetlands fruit grown in the bogs of Wisconsin, Maine, Massachusetts and the coastal Northwest. Loaded with vitamin C, they are very nutritious. Folk healers used them to cure urinary tract infections, ulcers and gum disease. And they were once eaten by sailors to ward off scurvy.

I don't want scurvy, but I doubt I'd ever eat cranberries if it weren't for turkey. That would be like eating mustard without the bratwurst, or salsa without chips.

Turkey with cranberry sauce is just the thing, though, and I'm not alone in this. The distinguished Alistair Cook once declared the "pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes... a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it."


Domestic turkey, closeup
Domestic turkey, closeup

Turkey Quiz                                                                    answers

1. Why is it insulting to be called "a turkey"?
2. Did turkeys originally come from Turkey?
3. What do you call the red thing that hangs under a turkey's chin?
4. What do you call a female turkey?
5. Where do you find the turkey's "snood"?
6. What do you call a male turkey?
7. Which turkeys can fly?
8. Which turkeys gobble?

The First Thanksgiving

Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

El Adelantado de la Florida

When and where did the first Thanksgiving occur in the Americas? The 1621 feast held by Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth Plantation is the common answer.

Chronologically speaking, Plymouth's Thanksgiving was not first... by a long shot. 

Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in what is now St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565. On that day he held Mass and shared a feast of Thanksgiving with the Timucua Indians. The Timucua brought corn, beans, squash, nuts and shellfish, while the Spanish made a pork, bean and onion stew.

In 1598, another Spaniard by the name of Juan de Onate took a company of 600 people, 83 wagons and 7,000 animals across the Rio Grande. When they arrived, just south of El Paso, they held a feast of Thanksgiving with the Manso Indians.

Jamestown, Virginia settlers also held a Thanksgiving ceremony in 1610 and the Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia held its first Thanksgiving held on December 4, 1619.

Bulletin Board
Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey
Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey 

We Gather Together
We Gather Together

14 Thanksgiving Hymns on MP3
Native American Feast
Native American Feast


Turkey Tray
Turkey Tray

A Little Commonwealth : Family Life in Plymouth Colony
A Little Commonwealth:

Family Life in Plymouth Colony

Turkey Platter
Turkey Platter

December by George Winston
George Winston

Wild Turkeys
Wild Turkeys

American Animals

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