> >

Thanksgiving (US)

Thanksgiving Harvest

Thanksgiving Harvest
© Denzil Green

22 November

American Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November.

Though many people who are weary of Turkey for Thanksgiving and Turkey for Christmas try to persuade their family to accept something else for Thanksgiving, it's very hard to change what people expect. It's traditional to also serve cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows.

The stuffing for the Turkey might be oyster-based in New England, made of cornbread in the American south, or have wild rice in it in more northern states. Dessert is almost always Pumpkin Pie.

One dessert that was associated with Thanksgiving for longer than Pumpkin Pie has been has now been lost -- Marlborough Pudding.

Putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving originated sometime in the 1920s.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Switzerland and the United States.

History Notes

Horn of PlentyThe Ancient Greeks had fall harvest festivals, as did the Romans. The Roman one was called "Cerelia" and was dedicated to the goddess, Ceres.

The "Horn of Plenty" symbol dates back to Greece. In the myth, Amalthea is given a goat's horn by Zeus. Zeus said that the horn will fill with anything she wished.

British settlers had held services of Thanksgiving in the New World at different times of the year, starting in Newfoundland on 27 May 1578. Popular imagination holds, though, to the one held by Pilgrims in 1621. They didn't hold another one, though, until 1623, and that was on 30 June. Over the next 150 years, Thanksgivings were held in America at irregular intervals and times, though most tended to coincide with harvests.

The first officially proclaimed one was on the fourth Thursday of November 1789. It had been proclaimed by President George Washington on 3 October 1789. Thomas Jefferson did not proclaim any, as it felt it interfered with the separation of church and state. In 1815, Thanksgiving was held on 13 April 1815, proclaimed by President James Madison.

No further Thanksgivings were held for almost 50 years in America, until on 3 October 1863, American President Lincoln proclaimed a Thanksgiving to be held on the fourth Thursday in that upcoming November. He was urged to do so by a woman named Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788–1879), who would also edit the first American edition of Eliza Acton's "Modern Cookery for Private Families".

From 1863 to 1941, whoever was President that year had to issue an executive order to make Thanksgiving a holiday that year. In 1939 and in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it to be the third Thursday, in order to create an extra "shopping week" between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But changing the date of it was so unpopular that in 1941, Congress finally passed a proclamation making Thanksgiving a holiday in perpetuity, and declaring it to be the fourth Thursday.

In New England, it used to be a popular and traditional time for weddings.

Literature & Lore

Urban myth holds that American President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace were once hosting a Thanksgiving dinner in their home in Northhampton, Massachusetts. While the maid was carrying the turkey into the dining room, she slipped and dropped the turkey to the floor. Grace Coolidge said to her maid, "That's alright Mary, just take this turkey back to the kitchen and bring in the other one."

"Tell me where your grandmother came from and I can tell you how many kinds of pie you serve for Thanksgiving. In the Midwest two is the usual, mince and pumpkin. In the South no pie but wine jelly, tender and trembling, topped with whipped cream. Down East it's a threesome, cranberry, mince and pumpkin, a sliver of each, and sometimes, harking back to the old days around Boston, four kinds of pie were traditional for this feast occasion-mince, cranberry, pumpkin and a kind called Marlborough, a glorification of everyday apple." -- Clementine Paddleford (American food writer. 1898 - 1967)

"The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching. Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up." -- Ted Allen.

A Boy's Thanksgiving Day
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for 'tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood -
when Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, "o, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for every one."

Over the river, and through the wood -
now Grandmothers cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Lydia Maria Child. In "Flowers for Children". C.S. Francis & Co., New York. Vol. 2, 1844.

"Again Johnny Doughboy has first call on the drumsticks. When Thanksgiving Day dawns, the ambrosial odors of roasting turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy will rise from camp kitchens round the world. Less turkey for civilians, one-quarter pound less a person than we had last winter, when it was three pounds apiece. This year it will be half a drumstick less for the plate. But listen where the missing bit's going. Prisoners of war are to have turkey for Christmas dinner—last year it was chicken.

The cranberry crop is the shortest since 1921, or 53 million pounds, 16 million less than last season. At least a third of this will be going to the military. Oysters are on the skimpy side, but a few more than last autumn. There they lie in their beds, fat and willing, but there's not enough labor to tong and pack the crop.

Otherwise, the great-day feast is the usual bounty, war or no war. Pass the mashed potatoes piled in a high, light drift. Help yourself to yams candied in their own rich blood. There are large supplies of potatoes, both the white and the gold. No onion famine this winter —onion crops are breaking records. Mash the purple-tinted turnip. Serve the parsnip of sweet, earthy taste. Native squash is here to celebrate the day in proper manner." -- Paddleford, Clementine (1898 - 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. November 1944.

See also:

Food and other items related to: Thanksgiving (US)

Brining a Turkey; Brussels Sprouts; Carving Board; Corn; Cranberries; Cranberry Sauce; Gravy; Ice Cream; Instant Read Meat Thermometers; Marlborough Pudding; Meat Thermometers; Oven Bags; Oven Cord Meat Thermometers; Oven Temperatures; Oven Thermometers; Parker House Rolls; Parsnips; Pastry; Pie Plates; Potatoes; Pumpkin Pie Spice; Pumpkin Pie; Pumpkins; Roasting Meat; Roasting Pans; Self-Basting; Stuffing; Sweet Potatoes; Turkey Lacers; Turkeys; Turnips; Whipping Cream

All November food days

Please share this information with your friends. They may love it.

Also called:

Erntedankfest (Vereinigten Staaten) (German)


Oulton, Randal. "Thanksgiving (US)." CooksInfo.com. Published 12 March 2004; revised 12 March 2010. Web. Accessed 05/26/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/thanksgiving-us>.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved and enforced. You are welcome to cite CooksInfo.com as a reference, but no direct copying and republishing is allowed.