CHARLOTTE, NC: On the day before Thanksgiving let’s get to the obvious and check out the Turkey Day trivia. First things first, which many folks already know, is that the first Thanksgiving in 1621 lasted three days instead of one and there was no Black Friday following the feast. Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts originated the idea when he invited the Native Americans in the region to join the Plymouth colonists in the celebration.
Chances are that turkey was not on the menu for the first Thanksgiving, but there was plenty of seafood including lobster as well as swan, venison and seal.
Today, Plimouth Plantation, which is part of Plymouth, Mass, still looks as it did in the 17th century. Modeled after an English village and a Wampanoag home site the historic attraction includes a Thanksgiving dinner complete with stories of colonial life and traditional music each Thanksgiving Day.
At first, the president had to declare Thanksgiving a holiday each year. During Thomas Jefferson’s administration, the president refused such a declaration under the constitutional grounds referring to “separation of church and state.”
Jefferson’s reasoning was that Thanksgiving involved prayer which would violate the First Amendment if he made it a holiday.
Thanks to the efforts of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, a magazine editor who campaigned prolifically in her writings to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, Abraham Lincoln later relented and the rest is history.
Hale, who was quite an activist in her day, also undertook a project to fight for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument.
Perhaps more interesting to most people, however, is that Hale is also recognized as the author and publisher of the popular nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Presidential Impact on Thanksgiving
President Franklin Roosevelt got into the Thanksgiving act in 1939 when he changed the celebration from the fourth Thursday to the third. It would have been an added boon for merchants, but the public rejected the idea and the fourth Thursday returned to its traditional calendar position in 1942.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush awarded the first presidential pardon to a lucky bird that did not find its way to the dining room table. The presidential turkey pardon continues to be an on-going tradition today.
What most people do not realize, however, is that a few of the “pardoned” turkeys became famous in their own right. In 2005 and again in 2009, the survivors were sent to Disneyland and Walt Disney World to serve (rather than being served) as grand marshal in their annual parades.
Furthermore, between 2010 and 2013, the parolees celebrated a much-earned vacation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.
By the way, Benjamin Franklin was an advocate of making the turkey our national bird rather than the bald eagle. According to Franklin, and in a letter to his daughter, the eagle had “bad moral character” and, in his mind, the turkey was “much more respectable.”
Thanksgiving Day Parades
Since the mid-1920s, Thanksgiving Day parades have become another holiday tradition throughout the nation. Macy’s started the idea in 1924 using live animals from the Central Park Zoo rather than the billowing balloons that are so familiar today.
Balloons did not make an appearance until 1927 when an illustrator from Good Housekeeping created the first floating characters that have been a part of the parade ever since. German American illustrator Tony Starg had a passion for puppetry which he incorporated into his initial designs.
Those first balloons were a toy soldier, an elephant and a dragon plus the cartoon character Felix the Cat
Today, of course, there are numerous cartoon favorites and other heroes to delight the throngs of people along the parade route each November.
In the United States there are four places named Turkey, the largest of which is Turkey Creek, Louisiana with a population of 435 people. The other three are Turkey, Texas, Turkey, North Carolina and Turkey Creek, Arizona.
For the record, Pennsylvania has two townships as well, Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot.
Just in case you wanted to know, there are also 4 towns named Cranberry and 34 called Plymouth.
We’ve all heard that the sound turkeys make is “gobble, gobble” but the truth is only male turkeys gobble. Female turkeys cackle. Rest assured however, that on Thanksgiving Day 100-percent of males and females eating turkey will both gobble and cackle profoundly.
The Thanksgiving TV dinner
Speaking of eating turkey. Back in 1953, an employee at Swanson accidentally ordered 260 tons (that’s right…ton’s) of turkey. A salesman came up with the idea of filling up aluminum trays with turkey and dressing, gravy, peas and sweet potatoes and selling them for just under a dollar.
Voila! The TV dinner was born!
Arguably saving the best for last, turkey gets its name from centuries ago when Europeans liked to eat guinea fowl which were imported by Turkish merchants the English referred to as “Turkeys.”
When the Spaniards arrived in North America, they discovered a bird with a similar taste to the guinea fowls that were so popular. As the new birds were exported to Europe, the English also called them “turkeys.”
All of that said, Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for….(ta da) plumbers! Kitchen drains, garbage disposals and toilets are the main culprits that require more than their share of post-holiday adjustments
Ahhh, ’tis a fowl business this Thanksgiving Day tradition.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
About the Author:
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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