Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
Thanksgiving Bird Flu (2005)
Kiddie Table (2006)
Turkey Heaven (2007)
Turkey Planting (2007)
Turkey Cooking (2007)
Thanksgiving Restaurant Dining (2007)
Thanksgiving - Smoked Turkey (2008)
Thanksgiving - Macy's Balloon (2008)
Thanksgiving - Butterball Hotline (2008)
Thanksgiving - Turkey Migration (2008)
How did Thanksgiving begin? Well, let's say here in the US it all started with a big granite rock...Plymouth Rock, that is.
The big boulder which is rumored to be the one in which the Pilgrims first stepped on was in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The rock later was moved to Plymouth's Town Square, and then to a local museum called Pilgrim Hall. Then it was brought back to the beach and placed under a stone canopy along with a box that was suppose to contain some Pilgrim's bones. However, due to souvenir snatchers from chipping little pieces off, the rock got put in a pit with a wrought iron fence around it and portico to shelter tourists from bad weather. Top it off with the fact that there really is no official documentation to prove that this is THE rock the Pilgrims are supposed to have stepped on. But the rock has symbolized America's freedom. During the Revolutionary War, Plymouth citizens took it as a good sign (not bad) when the rock split in two while being pried from its bed for use as a pedestal for a liberty pole. Shortly after the colonies "split from England." The two halves were eventually put together and originally it was around 12 feet in diameter and weighed 7 or 8 tons. But due to souvenir hunters and all that moving about, the rock has been worn down.
So how does this big granite rock begin a tradition with turkeys, cornucopia, corn, harvests, thanksgiving, parades, football and so on?
Celebrating Harvests in Other Cultures
Celebrating a harvest is not the invention of the Puritans. It has actually been going on for hundreds of years before. And rocks have always been areas for thrones for such celebrations.
The Greeks celebrated a harvest festival honoring Demeter, their goddess of agriculture with a 9-day feast. Persephone, the goddess of the seasons was Demeter's daughter.
The Romans honored their goddess of harvest, Ceres, with a festival called Cerealia and done every Autumn.
Hebrews celebrated the harvest with Sukkoth also known as The Feast of the Tabernacles. This goes on for 8 days.
The Egyptians had their God of Fertility, Min, honored in an annual harvest ceremony by having the Pharoh cut the first sheaf of grain. This act was symbolic to help insure everyone would have plenty because the Pharoh was also considered a God.
The Chinese have their Harvest Moon Festival. The Japanese have field
gods. The Hindu have their harvest protector and the American Seneca
Indians have "Green Corn Dance" to honor a harvest.
The Iroquois have their "Great Feather Dance" as a celebration
of thanks for a good harvest.
The ancient Celtic people held a fall celebration the first of November as a feast to the summer's end. See our Halloween History page for further information.
The Pilgrims aka Puritans and the First Thanksgiving. Or was it?
So going back to the Rock again, we get the Pilgrims who were nicknamed Puritans because they wanted to purify the English Church of all traces of Roman Catholic influence. Well, that didn't go too well (and is the basis for the problems today in Northern Ireland as I understand it) so they got on a ship called the Mayflower and set sail for this so-called "New World" in which they could live free from England's dominance. And after so many days at sea, they landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts and supposedly stepped on that big granite rock!
But after a while they got homesick for some English traditions, and in 1621 history tells us that the first Thanksgiving took place as a way to celebrate the English harvest festival, surviving the long voyage and the first year in this new rocky land and their helpful friends, the Indians. They were simply thankful to be alive still!
Chief Massasoit, with 90 other Indians were invited to a dinner that lacked enough food. So, when the Chief saw this, he sent several of his men to go into the forest and get more to eat. They came back with 5 deer. The Indians stayed for 3 days and feasted on fowl, deer, Indian corn, pumpkins, beans, fish, clams, lobster and of course turkey!
But history is a bit wrong. The 1621 Thanksgiving wasn't the first real harvest celebration in the New World. It might be the first with Indians invited' however? Actually the first harvest festival was held 40 years earlier by English Settlers in Newfoundland. Another festival was held 14 years before in Maine. And just 3 years before in 1618 a festival in Virginia known as Berkeley's Hundred was held and really beat the Pilgrims' party in 1621.
The Indians & Squanto
The Wampanoags are the Indians that lived in the Massachusetts area at the time the English settlers landed. The Wampanoags didn't have an easy life because they were warring with a tribe to the north of them. When the pilgrims (that are credited with originating Thanksgiving) landed on Dec. 26, 1620, it was in the dead of winter. And, I think most of us know that this time of year is pretty harsh, even if you're already settled in with a home, etc. So, the Indians and the new settlers were having it a bit rough.
Many of us are also told about Squanto, the Indian who can be considered
like a public relations representative between the Pilgrims and the
Wampanoag Indians because he knew both languages. Many tell the
story of how Squanto knew English because he had visited England before.
That's a half-truth. You see, several years before (around 1608), Squanto
had been captured by the British when he was a boy (along with some
other Indians) and taken to Málaga, Spain and sold into slavery.
A Spanish monk bought him from his slave owner and treated him well.
Squanto was taught English and Christianity by this monk.
Unfortunately, when Squanto arrived back in America, he discovered
most of his people had died of a disease. While living with the Wampanoags,
Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrims (that we now refer to when we
think of the first Thanksgiving) by his friend, Samoset. Governor
William Bradford was so thrilled to have someone who knew both English
and the Indian language that he asked Squanto to be his go-between between
the Indians and the settlers. Squanto agreed.
So, you see, Squanto didn't voluntarily visit England. He had migrated there after living in slavery and then exile for several years in Spain first. If it wasn't for Mr. Slaney arranging for Squanto to go back to America, Squanto probably would have lived the rest of his life in England.
Squanto is credited with being the person who created the first Thanksgiving by speaking with both Chief Massasoit and William Bradford, to set up this feast between the Indians and the Pilgrims with the purpose of giving thanks.
Squanto died in November of 1622 from a deadly illness. Governor William Bradford was by his bedside. It is said that he left all his possessions to the English settlers.
Miles Standish is probably the most popular pilgrim, who really wasn't a pilgrim at all. Actually he was a red-haired hot-tempered soldier hired to train the Pilgrims to defend themselves. Miles Standish was supposedly a brave man, except when it came to women. In the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow "The Courtship of Miles Standish" he tells of sending a young John Alden (who was a soldier also and not a Pilgrim btw) to speak for him to the fair Priscilla Mullins. Well, Priscilla wasn't impressed and her reply was, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" (Remind you of Cyrano de Begerac?) Well, it was John Alden who got the girl. Him and Priscilla were married and had 11 children.
How it got to be a holiday?
How did Thanksgiving
get to be an official holiday?
Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberries, Pumpkin Pie, and Stuffing!
These traditional foods of Thanksgiving are a way to remind us of living off the land (farm life) and that we really are dependent on the land even today to survive whether we realize it or not in this modern millennium. People today eat these foods as a way of universally joining together to worship and give thanks (much alike the Last Supper in the bible). When an entire nations is presumably eating the very same thing on the same day, it is a way of symbolically becoming one. And it also helps renew our ties with working the soil.
Ironically, the first Thanksgiving probably didn't have any pumpkin pie as we know it today. Why? The pilgrims didn't really have many ingredients to make pastry back then. Stuffing wasn't probably eaten due to lack of flour and bread. They weren't going to waste their bread stuffing it inside a turkey. They'd simply eat it as a loaf.
Corn on the cob wasn't eaten back then because Indian corn is different (harder) and all they ate was probably just cornbread from cornmeal. Sweet potatoes were not even common to our area. No one had heard of them back in 1620. And potatoes were probably boiled, let alone mashed. Forget gravy also.
What might they have eaten? Fish like cod, bass and herring. Of course there were crabs, lobsters, oysers and mussells. For meats they had the turkey, but also partridge, moose, venison and ducks. They also had nuts available as well as some vegetables and edible roots.
Every nation has its priority grain. England has its wheat. Scotland has its oats. Ireland has its oats (and barley?). And the New World had its corn or maize. The belief of a Corn Mother came over from Europe and isn't original to the New World at all. It originated in Greek and Roman times with their Gods, Demeter and Ceres, in which they remained in the LAST sheaf of grain from a harvest festival. Corn husking also became a custom community activity in many parts of Europe and the New World.
But,as I said above, the pilgrims didn't eat corn on the cob because only Indian corn was grown at the time and that was too hard. Popcorn wasn't around yet either.
Why the turkey got to be called "Tom" I am not sure?
The custom of snapping the turkey's wishbone, to bring good luck or make a wish come true to the person who gets the largest part goes back to the Romans. (Aren't those Romans just full of these little silly customs?) The Etruscans are believed to have started it. When the Romans conquered England, they introduced it. And by the time the Pilgrims brought it to the New World, it was an established custom in England for years. Many word origin philosophers feel that the bone-snapping of the wishbone is the source for the common expression, "To get a lucky break." The person who gets the shorter end when it breaks will not get his/her wish.
Nearly one-half of all the cranberries in the world grow in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which equals approximately 2 million barrels a year. The Pilgrims gave this sour tasting berry the name crane berry because of its pink blossoms and drooping head which reminded them of a crane. Over time the word crane berry slurred into cranberry as we know it today. The Indians used the cranberry as a dye, to eat and as a poultice to draw poison from wounds of arrows. The cranberries also dried well, and therefore were a great source of Vitamin C for sailors on ships to prevent scruvy. Not all cranberries are soft. And rumor has it that a cranberry is given 7 chances to bounce over a 4-inch barrier to become juice or a sauce, or it is thrown out. If you think of Charlie the Tuna, I guess you can pun that phrase, "Sorry Crannie." ;)
But, cranberry sauce probably wasn't at the first Thanksgiving meal because sugar was so scarce (if at all) back then. They probably ate cranberries, but not as a sauce.
The Cornucopia (Horn of Plenty)
Cornucopia is the most common symbol for a harvest festival. It is a horn shaped container filled with abundance of the earth's harvest. The Greek legend goes that Amalthea, (a goat who honored their God Zeus with her milk for life) broke off one of her horns and filled it with fruits, nuts and flowers for him. To show his gratitude, Zeus later set the goat's image in the sky. Today we know it as the constellation Capricorn.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade
The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade goes back to 1920, but it was not done by Macy's in New York City. Actually the parade was held by Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia.
Macy's Department Store is the one that's the most famous for its Thanksgiving Day parade. The tradition began back in the early 1920's when many of the employees of Macy's were immigrants. In honor of now being in America, they wanted to celebrate the holiday that represented the founding of this great country. So in 1924 they decided to celebrate in the style that they new back in Europe....with a parade. The employees dressed in various costumes and marched down 145th street to 34th Street. They also had some floats, a band and even some borrowed animals from the New York Zoo. The crowd was estimated to be 250,000.
They also used to release the balloons, which floated around for days. Those lucky enough to find one could win a prize. This custom is no longer done.
Large, big helium balloons weren't added to the parade until 1927. The first helium balloon was of Felix the Cat. By 1934, the parade grew in popularity making the crowd now 500,000. It was also the year that Disney collaborated with the Macy's parade resulting in the first Mickey Mouse balloon.
But, due to the War, the parade was shut down from 1942 to 1944. Rubber and helium couldn't be wasted on parades. In 1945 the parade returned, with an audience of 2 million now.
In 1952, the parade was first aired on television. Since 1979, the parade's broadcast has won 9 Emmy Awards also.
Still today, the Macy's parade remains one of the main traditional celebrations for Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving & Football
Today Football is now associated with Thanksgiving. This is rather traditional since the Pilgrims and the Indians did have sporting contests at their 1621 festival. The Pilgrims displayed their shooting skills with guns while the Indians exhibited their talents with bows and arrows, racing, wrestling and other games.
Football has been around for centuries. But, the tradition of a Thanksgiving Day football game in the U.S. first began in the high schools. The first Thanksgiving Day high school game is said to be back in 1882 between Needham and Wellesley in Massachusetts. Wellesley won. To this day, both Needham and Wellesley claim to be the oldest high school football rivalry in the US. However, the longest, uninterrupted rivalry is boasted by Boston-Latin School and Boston-English School. They've played a game every year since 1887.
San Francisco is credited with building the first football stadium for high school football. In early 1920's, Mary Kezar stated in her will that money was to be given to build a football stadium (in honor of her late husband) where kids could play football. San Francisco matched her charitable donation and a stadium was built in 1924 near Golden State Park. On Thanksgiving Day in 1925 Kezar Stadium opened. The first game was played between Polytechnic High vs. Lowell High. Lowell High won. And a Thanksgiving Day high school football game began in San Francisco.
But, football on Thanksgiving Day didn't go professional until 1934 when G.A. Richards decided to hold a football game in Detroit as a way attracting football fans, because up until that time, it was baseball (Tigers) that was getting the most attention. So, the first Thanksgiving Day football game was between two NFL teams: Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Since the Chicago Bears were the undefeated World Champions at this time, this also added to the game's popularity. Whoever won, would also be the winner of the NFL Western Division. To help promote this even further, Mr. Richards convinced the NBC Radio to broadcast the game on 94 stations! The results were: Bears = 19 Lions = 16.
This 1934 game began the tradition of NFL football on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit. (Except during the War years of 1933-1944). Detroit fans are stoic football fans, especially on Thanksgiving. The tradition of football on Thanksgiving is older than 24 football franchises. The two NFL franchise cities today that hold the Thanksgiving Day football games, are either Detroit or Dallas (started in 1966).
The Beginning of Christmas Shopping
Today, Thanksgiving also is the eve of what is called "Black Friday" although I really don't like that name at all. What it is is the official beginning of the Christmas commercial shopping season and it traditionally dates back to the early Norman seasonal fairs held at this time also. It was considered some sort of magical day, so today the myth is that the consumer buying for the rest of the year is based on how good or bad the sales are on Black Friday.
The only real Thanksgiving phobia is termed "turkey phobia" by the professionals. No it isn't fear of turkeys. What it is is a fear of NOT cooking the turkey right! For some bizarre reason, our society seems to scorn the woman who fails at cooking a turkey, making a good stuffing and gravy. A San Francisco radio food caster, Harvey Steiman said, "We're hung up on this image if we don't do it exactly right, the ghost of Norman Rockwell will come after us."
Forget Norman Rockwell...how about your mother-in-law or other relatives? It seems to be a common activity while the men watch football, the women wander in and out of the kitchen of the hostess giving aged-long advice on how their mothers cooked the bird and taught them? It's a horror every hostess dreads to have people sit down at the table and exclaim how great the beans and almonds are, and say NOTHING about the turkey!
Butterball Turkey Corporation offers a Turkey Talk Line that claims to have answered 1,500 calls a day just before Thanksgiving from frantic people trying to pass the infamous "Turkey Cooking Exam" by relatives. Butterball supervisors called it "Turkey Trauma."
Ancestors of the original Mayflower
The following Presidents are descendants of original Mayflower settlers as follows:
John Adams (John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, JOHN ALDEN)
John Adams (John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, PRISCILLA MULLINS, WILLIAM MULLINS)
John Quincy Adams (John Adams, John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, JOHN ALDEN)
John Quincy Adams (John Adams, John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, PRISCILLA MULLINS, WILLIAM MULLINS)
Zachary Taylor (Richard Taylor, Elizabeth Lee, Sarah Allerton, Isaac Allerton, ISAAC ALLERTON )
Zachary Taylor (Richard Taylor, Elizabeth Lee, Sarah Allerton, Isaac Allerton, Fear Brewster, WILLIAM BREWSTER)
Ulysses S. Grant (Jesse Grant, Noah Grant, Susanna Delano, Jonathan Delano, Mercy Warren, Nathaniel Warren, RICHARD WARREN)
James A. Garfield (Eliza Ballou, Mehitable Ingalls, Sybil Carpenter, Jotham Carpenter, Desire Martin, Mercy Billington, FRANCIS BILLINGTON, JOHN BILLINGTON)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Warren Delano, Ephraim Delano, Thomas Delano, Mercy Warren, Nathaniel Warren, RICHARD WARREN)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Warren Delano, Elizabeth Cushman, James Cushman, Eleazer Cushman, MARY ALLERTON, ISAAC ALLERTON)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Warren Delano, Elizabeth Cushman, James Cushman, Elizabeth Coombs, John Coombs, Sarah Priest, DEGORY PRIEST)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Deborah Church, Deborah Perry, Samuel Perry, Ebenezer Perry, Esther Taber, Esther Cooke, JOHN COOKE, FRANCIS COOKE)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Deborah Church, Deborah Perry, Samuel Perry, Abigail Presbury, Deborah Skiffe, Lydia Snow, Abigail Warren, RICHARD WARREN)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Deborah Church, Joseph Church, Caleb Church, Nathaniel Church, Joseph Church, Joseph Church, Elizabeth Warren, RICHARD WARREN)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (James Roosevelt, Mary Aspinwall, Susan Howland, Joseph Howland, Nathanial Howland Jr., Nathanial Howland Sr., Joseph Howland, JOHN HOWLAND)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (James Roosevelt, Mary Aspinwall, Susan Howland, Joseph Howland, Nathanial Howland Jr., Nathanial Howland Sr., Joseph Howland, ELIZABETH TILLEY, JOHN TILLEY)
Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah
Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope
Chipman, Hope Howland,
George H.W. Bush (Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, ELIZABETH TILLEY, JOHN TILLEY)
George H.W. Bush (Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Courtland Butler, Samuel Butler, Sarah Herrick, Silence Kingsley, Samuel Kingsley, Mary Washburn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jane Cooke, FRANCIS COOKE)
George W. Bush (George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, JOHN HOWLAND)
George W. Bush (George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, ELIZABETH TILLEY, JOHN TILLEY)
George W. Bush (George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Courtland Butler, Samuel Butler, Sarah Herrick, Silence Kingsley, Samuel Kingsley, Mary Washburn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jane Cooke, FRANCIS COOKE)
George W. Bush (Barbara Pierce, Marvin Pierce, Jonas Pierce, Chloe Holbrook, John Holbrook, John Holbrook, Zilpha Thayer, Mary Samson, Stephen Samson, HENRY SAMSON)
The following Vice Presidents are descendants of original Mayflower settlers as follows:
Dan Quayle (James Quayle, Marie Cline, Delia Burras, Oscar Burras, Sally Standish, Peleg Standish, Zachariah Standish, Zachariah Standish, Ebenezer Standish, Alexander Standish, MYLES STANDISH)
Dan Quayle (James Quayle, Marie Cline, Delia Burras, Oscar Burras, Sally Standish, Peleg Standish, Zachariah Standish, Zachariah Standish, Ebenezer Standish, Sarah Alden, JOHN ALDEN)
The following First Ladies are descendants of original Mayflower settlers as follows:
Barbara (Pierce) Bush: (Marvin Pierce, Jonas Pierce, Chloe Holbrook, John Holbrook, John Holbrook, Zilpha Thayer, Mary Samson, Stephen Samson, HENRY SAMSON)
Lucretia (Rudolph) Garfield: (Arabella Mason, Lucretia Greene, John Green, Elizabeth Taylor, Anne Winslow, Edward Winslow, MARY CHILTON, JAMES CHILTON)
Edith (Carrow) Roosevelt [Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt]: (Gertrude Tyler, Emily Lee, Elizabeth Gorham, Stephen Gorham, Desire Howland, JOHN HOWLAND)
The Family Gathering: Love it or Hate it?
Fear of getting together with family on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday or event such as graduations, weddings, funerals etc. is often the most stressful and depressing thing for many of us.
I've made a separate page on this topic for those that want to read it. Holiday Stress
Visit our other Thanksgiving
besides Thanksgiving History
"Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun" by Donald E. Dossey, Ph.D
Outcomes Unlimited Press, Inc. © 1992
Holiday Symbols, 2nd Edition by Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc. © 2000 and the following websites:
(Plus, a few other sites that no longer are on-line)