We’re closing in on Thanksgiving! Can you believe how close it is? Like I said yesterday, it’s time for me to start making my list. I’m one of those folks who does best with a list, since I do tend to forget things that are important to remember. One thing that seems to get lost in the shuffle of making plans, going grocery shopping and cleaning the house in preparation for company, is the reason that we celebrate this holiday at all. I know most of us have a general idea, and many of us studied it in school, but you would be surprised how many people forget the true reason for most of the holidays that we celebrate. They’ve all, including Thanksgiving, turned into commercial holidays intended to sell stuff and pull us into fancy marketing, over bringing true meaning to celebrating the wonderful blessings in our lives. Let’s put some focus this year on what the holidays mean, spend time learning what they are all about – or relearning what we may have forgotten or set aside – and truly celebrate the meaning of each one.
Shall we start with where it all started?
History of Thanksgiving in America
From what I’ve learned, according to most historians, the pilgrims had never observed an annual Thanksgiving feast in autumn. Surprised? In the year 1621, they did have a feast near Plymouth, Massachusetts after their first harvest, but this feast that most people call the first Thanksgiving wasn’t ever repeated. What might surprise people more is that most devoutly religious pilgrims observed a day of thanksgiving with prayer and fasting, not with feasting. Even though the harvest feast was never called Thanksgiving by the pilgrims of 1621, it has still become the model for the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations that we celebrate in the United States.
The idea behind this whole holiday is to be thankful, right? I know that every day I see on Facebook lists of things people are thankful for, and it makes me happy to see that some of these folks are really putting themselves into the mood of being grateful for the blessings they have been given by acknowledging them to the world! What are you grateful for in your life? Remember not only to share those thoughts with your friends and family, but thank the Good Lord for all of the blessings that He has bestowed upon you . . . for without Him, where would you be?
For many years we have hosted Thanksgiving in our house, and quite honestly, the planning, shopping and preparation of the meal is what my hubby and I love best. We always try something new, or tweak a recipe we’ve had for years to make it different – sometimes it even makes it better!, and having family and friends arrive with all of those delicious aromas filling the air is rather like the house reaching out in welcome to bring everyone in and wrapping them in a big hug. I am a traditionalist in every sense of the word. There are just things that HAVE to be on the table, and as much as possible they must be from scratch. With the biggest turkey we can find (we LOVE leftovers!), mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, candied yams, buttered rolls, and of course the appetizers and pie! Have to have pie with homemade whipped cream.
So, what did they eat at the feast of 1621? I took a bit of a look and it was interesting to see what I found.
The feast lasted for three days, and was attended by the Pilgrims as well as the local Native Americans. This much we know from even the Peanuts Thanksgiving cartoon, right? We also know that it was in celebration of the end of the fall harvest, when food was plentiful. It was interesting to see what it was they did eat, and honestly, some of this feast has absolutely no resemblance to what we eat today. What the best guess was, gleaned from a variety of historical documents, that they feasted on: five deer, a large number of turkeys and waterfowl (ducks?), cod and bass; plus the harvest which consisted of wheat, corn, barley and maybe even some peas. Other foods they were likely to have eaten because they were plentiful in the area were clams, mussels, lobster, eel (ewww), ground nuts, acorns, walnuts, chestnuts, squashes, beans, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, vegetables and herbs like onions, leeks, sorrel, yarrow, lettuce, carrots, radishes, currants, liverwort, watercress and others.
Can you imagine the joy they must have felt to get the harvest in, and know that they had plenty of food to get them through the winter? They had much to be thankful for, and they had worked very hard to get there. Doesn’t that sound amazing? The only thing I see wrong with this list – besides the eels of course – is the lack of pie! The people who sit around your table, no matter what it is that is on your dinner plate, are the reason we need to be thankful – being surrounded by those we love will keep us warm inside and thankful the whole year through.
Here’s an interesting timeline I found of how Thanksgiving developed in America:
• 1541 – Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, led a thanksgiving Communion celebration at the Palo Duro Canyon, West Texas.
• 1565 – Pedro Menendez de Aviles and 800 settlers gathered for a meal with the Timucuan Indians in the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Florida.
• 1621 – Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated a harvest feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
• 1630 – Settlers observed the first Thanksgiving of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England on July 8, 1630.
• 1777 – George Washington and his army on the way to Valley Forge, stopped in blistering weather in open fields to observe the first Thanksgiving of the new United States of America.
• 1789 – President Washington declared November 26, 1789, as a national day of “thanksgiving and prayer.”
• 1800s – The annual presidential thanksgiving proclamations ceased for 45 years in the early 1800s.
• 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln resumed the tradition of Thanksgiving proclamations in 1863. Since this date, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.
• 1941 – President Roosevelt established the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
This Day In History –
1874 – Cartoonist Thomas Nast depicts Republican party as an elephant in a cartoon in Harper’s Weekly.
Food Celebration of the Day –
National Bittersweet Chocolate Day– Lucky you….lucky me. Chocolate is a vegetable, made from cocoa beans. Almonds are good for you, as they help to improve your cholesterol levels. So, bittersweet chocolate with almonds is good for you, right!? Hey, logic is logic! Why question it? All on its own, chocolate isn’t actually sweet at all, but that’s what sugar and cocoa butter are for, right? I may have to give this recipe for biscotti a shot – I love making biscotti!
- Chocolate-Almond Biscotti
- Chocolate-Almond Ricotta Cake
- Chocolate-Almond Apricot Brittle
- Chocolate-Almond Cheesecake
- Chocolate-Almond Nut Jobs
- Chocolate-Almond Toffee
- Chocolate-Almond Crescent Cookies