This is a guest post written by one of our Bees, Stephanie Modkins
Despite our differences, Americans have a lot in common. One thing we have in common is what we eat on Thanksgiving Day. Regardless of race, religion, or gender, most of us consume turkey. This bird is so popular that 77 percent of its sales occur in November. Yet, for many years, this was not the case.
So, why do we now eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day? The answer requires a quick history lesson.
The Origins of Thanksgiving
The origins of this popular holiday begin in 1621. European settlers held a harvest festival to celebrate a successful crop. They invited the Wampanoag Indians, a tribe that helped them learn how to plant corn and survive their new terrain. This led to festivities that lasted for days. Attendees played games and performed military exercises. They also ate a bounty of food – fruits, vegetables, fowl (hen or chicken), and deer. Yet, records of this gathering do not mention the presence of turkey.
While they did eat Turkey during this period, hen and geese took precedence at special events. For over 200 years, this scenario was the norm. Furthermore, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving yearly based on territory. There was no uniformity in celebrating Thanksgiving across the country. It took the determination of one woman to shift this part of our culture. Her name was Sarah Josepha Buell Hale.
Who Is Sarah Joespha Buell Hale?
Hale was the editor of ‘Godey’s Lady Book,’ a lifestyle magazine. She wrote pieces to help females improve their domestic roles. Some of her writing discussed holiday meals. Her use of roasted turkey as the main meat during Thanksgiving elevated its status. Soon, Hale’s readers—around 150,000—followed suit. Then, this writer achieved a monumental goal. She convinced Abe Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.
Her victory came after years of sending letters to the White House. Civil unrest helped push her case. President Lincoln wanted to show gratitude for the Union Army win in Gettysburg. So, he proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863. This event further solidified the role of turkey as festive food.
We did not always eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day. This bird rose to prominence because of a writer. Sarah Joseph Buell Hale convinced a nation to change its holiday diet. She is an awesome example of how one citizen can bring thousands of people together. In other words, turkey is good.
Editor’s Note: Stephanie Modkins is an active Mobee user. She spent her childhood as a military dependent traveling to different places like the Philippines. This experience taught her the value of diversity. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing cards, and watching singing competitions.