Then in 1846, author Sarah Josepha Hale waged a one-woman campaign for Thanksgiving to be recognised as a truly national holiday.
In the US the day had previously been celebrated only in New England and was largely unknown in the American South. All the other states scheduled their own Thanksgiving holidays at different times, some as early as October and others as late as January.
Hale’s advocacy for the national holiday lasted 17 years and four presidencies before the letter she wrote to Lincoln was successful. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, he supported legislation which established a national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
Lincoln perhaps wanted the date to tie in with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620. Although we now use the Gregorian calendar. In 1621 the date would have been November 11 to the Pilgrims, who used the Julian calendar.
So Hale finally got her wish. She is perhaps now better known, though, for writing the nursery rhyme ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’.
In 1939, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up a week to try and give a boost to retailers before Christmas during the Great Depression.
Several states followed FDR’s lead but 16 states refused the holiday shift, leaving the country with rival Thanksgivings. FDR changed his mind after coming under pressure from Congress and in 1941, a resolution was passed returning the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November.
Atlantic City mayor Thomas D. Taggart later described the Thanksgiving holiday from 1939–1941 as “Franksgiving”.
Thanksgiving food: turkey, pies and stuffing
There are several potential reasons Americans eat turkey on the big day: one claims that the pilgrim Edward Winslow wrote a letter about that now-famous meal in 1621 which mentioned a turkey hunt before the dinner.
Another theory says the choice of turkey was inspired by Queen Elizabeth I who was eating dinner when she heard that Spanish ships had sunk on their way to attack England. She was so thrilled with the news she ordered another goose be served. Some claim early US settlers roasted turkeys as they were inspired by her actions.
Others say that as wild turkeys are native to North America, they were a natural choice for early settlers.
When European settlers encountered turkeys for the first time in the early 1500s, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl. Since this group of birds were thought to come from Turkey, the North American bird was dubbed ‘turkey fowl’.
This later became shortened to ‘turkey’ and entered the vernacular. The English navigator William Strickland, who introduced the turkey into England in 1550, was granted a coat of arms which included a “turkey-cock in his pride proper”.
So what comprises the classic Thanksgiving dinner?
Turkey: and/or ham, goose and duck or turduken (a spatchcocked combo of three whole birds!)
Stuffing (also known as dressing): a mix of bread cubes, chopped celery, carrots, onions and sage stuffed inside the turkey for roasting. Chestnuts, chopped bacon or sausage, and raisins or apples are also sometimes included in the stuffing.
Pies: pumpkin pies are most common, but pecan, apple, sweet potato and mincemeat pies are also quite popular.
Candied yams: sweet potatoes baked in a sugar syrup is exactly the sweet contrast you need on your plate full of savoury dishes. Sounds questionable, tastes delicious. You can also top your sweet potatoes with marshmallow if you want to be really authentic.
Mashed potatoes: Not specific to Thanksgiving but you’ll struggle to find a celebratory dinner without them.
Thanksgiving recipe inspiration
From pumpkin pie to mac and cheese, Americans go all out for Thanksgiving. Here are our favourite recipes:
Delicious sweet pastry combined with the popular autumn squash. Share America’s love for pumpkin pie with this traditional, simple recipe.
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This notice was published: 2022-11-23 07:04:33