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The History Behind Thanksgiving Traditions Turkey, Football, and Black Friday
Happy Holidays! Holiday season is officially upon us! I can smell it in the air, see it in the leaves, and will soon be tasting it in all the delicious foods that are staples for this time of year. The smiles of my children, the laughter of my nieces and nephews, the joy in my parent’s faces — this is the magic of the season. I say to you, take a deep breath and soak it all in. Slow your pace, just for a moment, and revel in the love of family. This holiday season, let us all remember to celebrate our traditions, our successes, and our families!
“There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.” –O. Henry
In our lifetimes, Thanksgiving hasn’t changed all that much. Sure, you may have modernized the menu and begun posting your family photos to Instagram, but the tried-and-true quartet of family, football, grub, and gratitude has been in place for generations. While it’s easy to take holiday traditions as a given, each one has a fascinating history all its own. Christmas trees, Valentine’s chocolate, and other de rigueur activities often have strange, unexpected origins. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the backstories behind some of the essential Thanksgiving traditions. Turkey Unlike other items on this list, it’s likely that turkey has been a staple of Thanksgivings since the first Thanksgiving in 1621. At the time, the holiday didn’t even have a name, and it was still more than 200 years away from being officially recognized by Abraham Lincoln. There are only two primary source documents detailing the meal between the Massachusetts colonists and the Wampanoag natives, and one of them mentions the famous Thanksgiving bird explicitly. Plymouth County Governor William Bradford described the menu in his journal “Of Plymouth Plantation,”which is one of the earliest accounts of life in colonial America. “Besides waterfowl,” he wrote, “there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.” As the colonists moved throughout the continent, they brought turkeys with them. In fact, there was even a specific role, called a “turkey drover,” for the person who would shepherd the birds from one part of the country to another.
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