Lobsters For Thanksgiving?!


Photo from https://movieweb.com/peanuts-charlie-brown-snoopy-holiday-specials-pbs/

Seals, nursery rhymes, and “Franksgiving” are not what most people have in mind when the famous November holiday appears; turkey, mashed potatoes, football, and Charlie Brown is what usually comes to mind. After October 31st, most people tend to breeze over the month of November and prance straight into the Christmas festivities (even the radio starts to play Paul McCartney’s 1979 “Wonderful Christmastime” as early as November 5th). Once the 25th of November hits, we skid to a stop to celebrate “Turkey Days”, where we momentarily set aside our winter holiday songs and dreidels and revert to “Thanksgiving Mode”.

The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Photo from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Thanksgiving-Day

The history of Thanksgiving begins as early as 1621, when a cluster of colonists from England took part in a feast with the local Wampanoag Native Americans. We learn this early on in our education, making turkeys with our handprints and vibrant, fake feathers in kindergarten while our teachers explain the Plymouth Colony the passengers of the Mayflower founded. The passengers became known as the “Pilgrims” (sound familiar?) and unfortunately, most of them passed away while living on the Mayflower. Once winter leapt into spring, the Pilgrims moved onto shore where they were welcomed in English by a pleasant Abenaki Native American. They soon met Squanto (part of the Pawtuxet tribe), who guided the clueless Pilgrims on how to survive in this new environment. Squanto enlightened the village of Plymouth in areas from agricultural and hunting, to even establishing alliances with the local tribes (the Wampanoag).

America’s “First Thanksgiving” dwelled on for three days; after a successful corn harvest, William Bradford, governor of Plymouth, invited their allies  for a marvelous feast. Fun fact: the Pilgrims had no “deserts” because their sugar supply had practically disappeared by November 1621 and most of the feast featured Native American dishes (and an unusual combo of lobster, seal, and swan).

Skip a hundred years or so to the American Revolution: after a glorious victory against the British Isles, George Washington himself proclaims a day of “thanks-giving”. Decades later, several of the East Coast states adopt a different day for “thanks-giving”, while the South lingers on without the holiday.

One of the earlier balloons at the Macy’s Day Parade. Photo taken by Nick Petersen (from https://time.com/3594677/balloons-thanksgiving-history/).

Sarah Josepha Hale, famous for her rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and known as “Mother of Thanksgiving”, initiated a 36-year-long effort to name Thanksgiving as a national holiday. As 1863 set in and the Civil War rampaged through the South, President Abraham Lincoln finally fulfilled Hale’s wish. Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the United States, set for the final Thursday of November.

In 1939, FDR attempted to reschedule the holiday a week earlier due to issues with the Great Depression, but “Franksgiving” was encountered with such resistance that the holiday was slated into the last Thursday of the month once again.

Decades later, Thanksgiving is celebrated with a gigantic family dinner and an even bigger turkey. The Macy’s Day parade is a key part of “Turkey Day” and while the holiday isn’t celebrated now for the same reason it was started, the idea of giving gratitude and thanks still remains. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, Knights (and maybe convince your parents to make some lobster- the Pilgrims did it!).

Source: https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving