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BURT WOLF TASTE OF FREEDOM THANKSGIVING PA RADE RADE one-time occasions, held because of a specific event. The word parade comes from an old Spanish word Prayers of thanks might be offered at official services in . that means “the stop” It was used to describe the period a place of worship, but these were not religious of time when a foreign army stopped in a town and occasions—they were secular and political feasts. occupied it. During the occupation, soldiers marched Harvest celebrations were also part of European through the streets which gave them a chance to show tradition. The crop had been brought in and people their strength and impress the local population. who lived on what they grew could see that they would Since the early 1920’s Gimble Brothers Department have enough to eat until the next growing season. The Store has marched its troops down the streets of harvest feast was an opportunity for a society to relax From The Web Philadelphia occupying the hearts and minds of from the intense physical labor of the field and spend thousands of people while demonstrating the some time thinking about the end of the yearly growing strength of the U.S. dollar and its power to purchase. cycle.The difficult work of reaping, picking and threshing Thanksgiving in America is a time when people give was replaced with a party — of eating, drinking and thanks for the things that they have and make plans romance. to buy more things. Gimble’s may be gone, but the parade marches on. THE FOUNDING MY T H MYT The Saturday following Thanksgiving is always the During their first winter in biggest shopping day of the year. America is a nation Massachusetts, half the that works hard and shops hard and Thanksgiving is colonists that reached North the beginning of America’s most important shopping America on the Mayflower died. season. It is also a time when Americans give thanks When spring arrived the for everything else they have, and they do that with survivors built eleven wooden friends and families. The basis for all the shopping is houses and planted American not to buy things for yourself, but to buy things for corn, peas and barley. In the fall people ypu love. Americans shop and they share. of 1621, there was a harvest and a crop to live on. The 55 Thanksgiving in the United States is actually a men who survived, out of the 111 who arrived, decided combination of two ancient traditions. Even though it to have a harvest feast. is called Thanksgiving, it is really made up of a fall The only eyewitness account is taken from a letter harvest festival as well as a thanksgiving. written by Edward Winslow to a friend in England. It Thanksgiving days have been part of European reports that William Bradford, the first governor of the tradition for hundreds of years. The King would Massachusetts Colony, sent four men out to hunt for proclaim a holiday and ask fowl and they came back with enough food to last a everyone to give thanks for week. They brought in wild turkeys, ducks and geese. something that had Fishermen arrived with eels and clams. The women happened—a victory in baked breads, cakes and puddings. The chief of the local battle, the end of a plague, Native American tribe arrived with ninety men and a member of the royal stayed for three days which were spent feasting and family reaching the age of entertaining each other. The letter also mentions that 21 without being arrested they all took part in a series of recreations that exercised on a drug charge. They were their arms—which might just be where someone got Burt Wolf ~Taste of Freedom the idea of Thanksgiving life it’s hard to give it up. The football. Pilgrims decide that an Harvest feasts were part of elaborate celebration was Native American tradition— inappropriate at Christmas the Indians were joining an but high life was fine at the event they shared and harvest. So the great and understood. They also glorious meal was shifted to realized that their presence the harvest festival. meant less food to go around; accordingly, the Native Thanksgiving is part of the end of summer/beginning Americans went hunting and brought in more meat to of winter passage that starts with Halloween. The colors share. They also introduced the pilgrims to the oyster. of the Thanksgiving foods are those of fall: gold and At the time of the harvest feasts, which was in October, red. The particular foods associated with Thanksgiving Governor Bradford proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day, to are foods that became widely popular during the be held in November. At that time, the surviving 1800’s—turkey, pumpkin, Indian pudding, sweet colonists would give thanks for their continued potatoes, maple syrup and cranberries. existence. Before the Reformation the traditional main course at Americans combined the Pilgrims harvest feast and Christmas was a Great Bird— a peacock, a crane, a their day of thanksgiving to produce our founding heron, a goose or a duck. When the turkey - which is myth of Thanksgiving in the U.S. And the elements that native to the Americas - arrived in Europe in the 1600’s, made-up these two separate occasions have been it was included in the Great Bird category. blended together to become our present Thanksgiving. The custom of eating Great Birds at Christmas died The feast takes place in the fall, the family gathers out. But they were still popular at harvest feasts, where together, and there is a great deal of eating and drinking. the turkey had its greatest acceptance and eventually The idea of overeating on Thanksgiving goes back for displaced the goose. During the 1700’s, the idea of a hundreds of years. Harvest time was an extremely Christmas feast began to return and the turkey came demanding period for the field workers. In medieval along as a central element in the meal giving it a spot times he was usually a on both the fall harvest and the Christmas tables. tenant farmer who needed Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be designated help from every member as the national bird and was deeply disappointed when of his family in order to get the eagle was chosen. In a letter to his daughter, he the work done— stated his opinion. backbreaking labor for hours on end. On the last I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the day of the harvest, when representative of our country. He is a bird of bad all the work was done, the landowner would reward moral character; like those among men who live by his tenant farmer and the farmer’s family with a great swindling and robbing, he is generally poor, and meal—good food and lots of drinks. Everyone would often lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable celebrate and thank the forces of nature for their bounty. bird and a true original native of America. Workers were often presented with the gift of a goose, - Benjamin Franklin, 1784 which is where we get the custom of giving conscientious workers a turkey. Recently Americans have seen the WHAT ’S COOKING? WHAT COOKING? introduction of the Before the Reformation, Christmas was celebrated with TERDUCKEN—a enormous amounts of food, barons of beef, mince pies, chicken cooked inside a plum puddings, ornate gift giving and twelve days of duck, which is cooked partying. inside a turkey, thereby The Reformation condemned elaborate producing a meal with celebrations—high living was out. The Pilgrims would four breast and six drumsticks. Clearly the terducken have celebrated Christmas in the new Protestant offers a great selection of parts, accordingly, the end manner—staying at home, eating very little, praying result is a main dish that reflects the Nation’s respect and hardly speaking. But once you get into the good for freedom of choice. 2 C OPYRIGHT 2003 A C O R N A SSO CIAT E S , L T D . Thanksgiving STUFFING is also part of the Thanksgiving tradition POT C ANDIED SWEET POTAT OES are also a traditional and for good reason. Stuffing a food has always been dish at the Thanksgiving meal. The recipe became an important part of festival recipes. It’s a way of making popular during the Civil War as a symbol of a dish “fancy” without necessarily making it expensive. unification—sweet potatoes are thought of as a mostly The work that goes into the stuffing of the turkey is Southern vegetable, the maple syrup used to sweeten clearly visible to everyone at the table. A stuffed turkey them is associated with New England. is more satisfying than an One of the things being celebrated at Thanksgiving is unstuffed bird because it the wholeness of the family—whether or not the family shows more work, adds more is actually whole. The idea is reflected in the “wholeness” food, and extends the number of the pies and cakes and molds. of flavors. It also sends a very Family picture-books are trotted out and reviewed. clear message that life is People reminisce and tell stories about former plump, full, and bursting with Thanksgivings. A common theme is cooking disasters abundance. and near-disasters that have taken place in previous At any feast, guests are always trying to do two things: years. The stories show how families weather problems, make an effort to show that they are united— one big behave well, forgive each other and eventually come family, sharing many common bonds, and at the same through with good humor. time trying to show that they are individuals and distinct from everyone else. At Thanksgiving, the turkey NON-TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING MEAL NON-TRADITIONAL and the stuffing symbolize each of these elements. Thanksgiving is a way for immigrants to celebrate The turkey is the main course and stands for our being being in America and to share that celebration with united—everyone wants a turkey at Thanksgiving. The everyone in the nation—from the descendants of the stuffing is unique to the family or the person who is people who arrived here on the Mayflower to a family doing the cooking. The stuffing is often made from an that arrived here last year. old family recipe that illustrates the family’s origin, When families immigrate to the United States, they history, or wealth — it is a statement of individuality. often keep to the foods of their native countries. They The universal turkey containing the individual stuffing also tend to continue their traditional holidays. The one — it says, “I belong to a group but I am an individual.” American event that gets incorporated into the holiday cycle of almost every new arrival is Thanksgiving. It C R A N B E R R I E S also play a significant role at usually includes all the traditional foods—turkey, Thanksgiving. Traditionally, people prefer to eat special stuffing, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, cranberries and dishes at an annual feast and to taste those foods only popcorn, but often with unusual twists that reflect their in connection with that particular event. The food original homeland. becomes part of what makes the festival special, and Thanksgiving is no exception. For many years SET TING A DAT E SETTING DAT cranberries were exclusive to the Thanksgiving meal. The first Thanksgiving Day held Some people made their cranberry relish from fresh by European settlers in North cranberries, but most people bought cranberry jelly in America took place in a can and served it in a dish. The hockey puck shape Newfoundland in 1578. It gave and dark red color were very distinctive. Giving food a thanks to God for the survival of unique shape and serving it only in connection with a an expedition headed by Sir particular celebration is an old technique for making a Martin Frobisher. No harvest was food exclusive to a specific occasion. involved. The first nationwide Thanksgiving in the United States MOLDS are often important at feasts: they give shape took place at the end of the Revolutionary War. After to a food and make an association between the shape the Constitution was signed, sealed and put in place, and the celebration. The Thanksgiving Jell-O mold has George Washington called for a Thanksgiving Day on been a popular form for almost a hundred years. It’s Thursday, November 26th, 1789. festive, colorful and “individualized” by the shape of the The feast of Thanksgiving, as it’s known today, was the mold and the particular fruits or marshmallows that work of Sarah Joseph Hale of Boston. She was the editor are imprisoned in the gelatin. Each cook has their own of the Godey’s Ladies Book, a periodical with the largest aesthetics in connection with these sculptures. circulation in the country—over 150,000 people C OPYRIGHT 2003 A C O R N A SSO CIAT E S , L T D . 3 Burt Wolf ~Taste of Freedom received each edition. Sarah was one of a group of deal of work and preparation it American women who saw themselves as the is a comparatively passive feast protectors of men and the promoters of social stability. and has become more so in In 1827, she started using her editorial page to urge recent years. There used to be the nation to set aside a day each year during which many more Thanksgiving the nation gave thanks to God for the blessings of the customs—a raffle of turkeys year. For 37 years she wrote articles in the magazine, on Thanksgiving Eve, more family sports and games and letters to Presidents, Governors, and members of like those that were part of the “original feast” in Congress, explaining the need for an annual Massachusetts. These days, television has taken over— Thanksgiving. In the course of these years she fixed on the ritual now involves watching Thanksgiving Day the last Thursday of November — recalling parades and sporting events on your television. Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving. Americans go home for Thanksgiving: they fly or drive The Civil War finally persuaded Abraham Lincoln that enormous distances to do so. The government has the idea was a useful one. In October, just weeks after tried to make things easier by establishing Thanksgiving the Battle of Gettysburg, he as an official four-day weekend. And the fact that the proclaimed that the last Thursday of United States was the first nation to celebrate an annual November 1863 would be a day of Thanksgiving Day makes it even more firmly and Thanksgiving for the prosperity and specifically American. freedom that had been achieved in Thanksgiving Day parades take place in the morning America, and to express the hope and most of the characters in the parades are toys. that the two year-old war would And the parades always end with the arrival of Santa soon end. One of the chief objectives Claus, who marks the start of the Christmas shopping was to encourage a sense of unity in the nation— season. The day ends with sporting events which are Americans who were traveling or living abroad were part of the patriotic fabric of encouraged to join in. Every year since then, Americans America. Together the have celebrated Thanksgiving Day. parades and the sporting At one point, President Roosevelt was lobbied by events present a spectacle of business interests to make the date earlier so that the Abundance and Patriotism. Christmas shopping season would be longer. But it was And between the two there is the Thanksgiving feast, too late; the public had accepted the last Thursday in where Abundance is actually consumed and Patriotism November as a tradition. As a matter of fact, public honored. displeasure against the date shift was so strong that Roosevelt had the old date formalized by Presidential Proclamation. And, in 1941, Thanksgiving was finally sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, on the fourth TO LEARN MORE . . . Thursday in November. CITY TAVERN RESTAURANT Presidents still make an official proclamation of 138 SOUTH 2ND STREET AT WALNUT STREET Thanksgiving about six weeks in PHILADELPHIA, PA 19106 advance but no one seems to (215) 413-1443 take notice. They also receive an HTTP://WWW.CITYTAVERN.COM official Thanksgiving turkey which they immediately give to THE BOOK OF THE YEAR: A BRIEF HISTORY OF someone else. The political risk OUR SEASONAL HOLIDAYS of being seen eating an animal BY DR. ANTHONY F. AVENI you know is too great. OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS HTTP://WWW.OUP.COM/US RITUALS THE RITUALS OF THANKSGIVING Thanksgiving is a celebration of America’s prosperity PHILIDELPHIA THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE and yet it is a holiday where gifts are not given. That is HTTP://ABCLOCAL.GO.COM/WPVI/FEATURES/ because Thanksgiving is in part a harvest feast—the TGDPARADE_SIGNUP_HISTORY.HTML#HISTORY EARTH does the giving and the people the receiving. In spite of the fact that Thanksgiving involves a great 4 C OPYRIGHT 2003 A C O R N A SSO CIAT E S , L T D .
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