New Delhi: Thanksgiving is being celebrated in the United States on November 24. It is a recognised national holiday in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, observed on various days. The festival started out as a day dedicated to giving thanks for the harvest and the year that had come before.
Germany and Japan both observe festival holidays with similar names. In the United States, Thanksgiving is observed on the fourth Thursday of November, while in Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October as well as during the same time of year in other countries. Despite having historical roots in religious and cultural customs, Thanksgiving has also long been observed as a secular holiday.
Why Is Turkey An Integral Part Of The Thanksgiving Celebration?
While Thanksgiving is all about feasting and celebration, there is one thing that has become an integral part of the ritual. Do you know what it is? Yes, you guessed it right. It’s a Turkey!
The traditional Thanksgiving meal includes bread stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and, above all, turkey.
But have you ever wondered how turkey became the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast?
During the ‘first Thanksgiving’, meal was shared between Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth colony and Wampanoag people in late 1621. For meat, the Wampanoag brought deer, and the Pilgrims provided wild fowl. While some believe that fowls could be turkeys that were native to the area, but several historians think that it could also be duck or geese.
Giving thanks for the fall harvest wasn’t a novel idea for the Pilgrims. ‘Days of thanksgiving’ were quite typical among the colonists of New England as a custom with roots in European harvest festivals and Christian religious observances. Communities held their own unofficial Thanksgiving festivities throughout the colonial era of America, although few people connected them to the Plymouth Pilgrims.
Turkey, however, was a preferred dish to offer on special occasions around the turn of the 19th century. This occurred for a number of reasons. To begin with, there were a lot of birds. Second, there were always enough of turkeys for slaughter on a family farm. Unlike live cows and chickens, who were useful as long as they were producing milk and eggs, respectively, turkeys were often bred solely for their meat, making them easily dispatchable. Third, one turkey could typically feed an entire family.
But Thanksgiving wasn’t yet associated with turkeys. Some claim that the popularity of turkey as a holiday dish was increased by Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol (1843)’. However, Sarah Josepha Hale, another author, may have had a more significant impact. She included a detailed account of a New England Thanksgiving, complete with a roasted turkey “put at the head of the table,” in an entire chapter of her 1827 novel ‘Northwood’. Around the same time, she started a push to make Thanksgiving a federal holiday in the US because she thought it would help the nation come together as it teetered on civil war. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation as the result of her efforts.
Along with all the above reasons, modern breeding techniques have made turkeys more plentiful and affordable than ever before, guaranteeing their continuous presence on the Thanksgiving table.