Thanksgiving Why Turkey?
I as an American living in Warsaw, Poland am often asked “Why a turkey?”. This question when put to the average American would be answered in
the form that it was what was eaten by the pilgrims during the first thanksgiving which became a tradition afterward and this a nice story. The idea of
continuing a tradition started by those whose suffering in the new world gave way to them being thankful for their first good harvest which they
celebrated with a huge turkey meal is sentimental but is it true? Did the pilgrims really eat turkey during the first thanksgiving meal? This is a question
that many historians have come to ask if the pilgrims in fact ate the bird we today know and refer to as a turkey because the pilgrims called every form
of wild fowl a turkey even those that were not what we today call a turkey.
It is strange for many and perhaps unacceptable that the pilgrims might not have eaten turkey as it has become such a symbol of this holiday but there
is a possibility they might not have. Lobster, deer which perhaps nobody would ever associate with Thanksgiving were surely eaten but there is one
thing that we can almost eliminate from what could have been on the menu and that is pumpkin pie as the pilgrims more then likely had run out of flour
Of course it is not really a matter of tremendous significance if the pilgrims who are very often referred to as our forefathers ate what today is known
and accepted as turkey but what is some might say is the fact that they were giving thanks to God for the blessings they had received during the year.
This again based on what we know today can also be disputed, not that there ever was a feast but that its intension was to show gratitude toward God.
Yes, it is true the pilgrims were deeply religious in a way that did not allow them to wear any colors apart from black also holding believes that dancing,
drinking and music were irreligious but this reason is precisely why some argue that theirs was not really a feast of thanks. The logic for this disbelieve
that questions lies in the fact that these were deeply religious people not despite it. In those days thanking God was done in a completely different
manner then it is today as giving thanks to God in those days specially by deeply religious people was done in the form of praying and fasting and not
in the form of huge feasts. In the opinion of several historians the feast of the pilgrims was in fact a harvest celebration which was a very common
thing at the time and not a day for giving thanks to anybody contrary to the story most Americans are told in school. One reason I can see for this
change in the story is perhaps the United States government felt that a day of thanks would be more eagerly celebrated then a “harvest day”
especially by those whose livelihood was not dependent on agriculture.
Contrary to what some may think the Thanksgiving feast was not repeated by the pilgrims the following year as the harvest was not as abundant and it
was not before two years passed after the first feast that it was repeated. Strangely enough many historians have cause to believe that this second
feast was in fact the first real “Thanksgiving Day Dinner” fore it was then that the pilgrims had a day to give thanks for the rain that brought to end the
long draught which they felt their prayers to God have been responsible for.
Another Thanksgiving day fact that took me by surprise when I first heard it was that the pilgrims only held this feast twice which goes in stark contrast
to what I had believed that this celebration was repeated by them year after year. The reality was that not till much later during the Lincoln
administration did “Thanksgiving” became recognized as an official holiday as it was Lincoln who took time out from the “Civil War” to make it such. To
many however at the time in congress the sufferance of a what in fact could be called a handful of Pilgrims as they only numbered 100 (not all
members of the “Separatist Church of England” and most of whom died less then 5 years afte
r reaching the new world) did not substantiate having a national holiday. As for me, I can see where there was certain logic in this however when
saying this I do not wish it understood that I am against this holiday as I celebrate it every year despite not having been in the States in over 13 years.
There is another factor which I also find odd in the telling of the history surrounding Thanksgiving or at least in the way it is told in American schools
and that being that it is never mentioned that the Pilgrims left England but originally it was not to go to the new world but to the Netherlands. Holland
where they stayed for many a year but eventually left finding the Dutch way of life to be “ungodly” as well as the fact that some of their children were
speaking Dutch instead of English as unbearable. I find it funny on a lighter side of this that the clothes we associate with the pilgrims meaning the
long black hats the men wore which in my opinion resemble a witch’s hat were really Dutch as was the rest of their garments and this perhaps is the
reason that men in this attire can be found on boxes of “Dutch Masters Cigars”.
The question of why the turkey is however not the only one I hear in Poland year after year from those whom I mention Thanksgiving to as very often I
am asked to share my knowledge on why it is held on the 4th Thursday of November as opposed to having a fixed date like Christmas? This question I
can not answer with certainty but I will try to use my imagination as to what might have lead the United States government to set the day as such.
In the first place they chose a Thursday meaning that they more then like always wanted it to be on a weekday unlike Christmas which some years
can fall on a Sunday. But some insist why the 4 Thursday of November not another day for instance the 3 Wednesday of October?
This again with reason as an ally I can retort that those who chose this day were probably looking for a day that would help mark the begging of the
Christmas shopping season but not one that would be so close to it that it would be competing with it. This 4th Thursday if one thinks about it is ideal
as it can fall anywhere between the 28th of November at the latest or the 22nd at the earliest.
Another reason I can speculate why Thursday was chosen as opposed to shall we say Friday or Wednesday, is that Thanksgiving being on Thursday
makes it possible for stores to close on Thursday for Thanksgiving and then use the following Friday to get themselves ready for what would be the
first Saturday of the holiday shopping season. The reason this happens is that the day after Thanksgiving though not an official bank Holiday is taken
as such at least as far as schools and department stores are concerned. This in my opinion being a good technique to follow given that Saturday is the
most popular shopping day and these stores want to take advantage of it and be ready for the first Saturday of the Christmas shopping season.
Despite these discrepancies in the tale which to my personal way of seeing things are interesting but do not change nor diminish what Thanksgiving
has become, which is an American holiday which can be celebrated by anybody regardless of nationality or religion. The reason I can even say any
religion is because this day or what this day has been transformed in to is a day on which we Americans give thanks for what we have but strangely
enough it is no longer connected with giving thanks to anybody in particular or even God.
Another factor connected with Thanksgiving that makes it a great secular holiday for anybody is the fact that it is not really connected to patriotism as it
does not celebrate the wining of a battle or the gaining of independence. This leaving it open to be celebrated by anybody regardless of nationality
who would like to eat a turkey and give thanks for he or she has that he or she considers worth being thankful for.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY!
About the Author
My name is Gianni Truvianni, I am an author who writes with the simple aim of sharing his ideas, thoughts and so much more of what I am with those
who are interested in perhaps reading something new. As for the details regarding my life I would say that there is nothing that lifts them above the
ordinary. I was born in New York City in 1967 on May 21st and am presently living in Warsaw, Poland because my wife happens to be from this
particular country that was also the birthplace for my only daughter. My daughter being the star of “Little Opera Singer” which was my first ever