In Honor of this glorious holiday that is upon us, I am here to learn you on the tradition of turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. Hopefully we both can learn something useful.
The first Thanksgiving is said to have occurred in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. There is, however, evidence that a Thanksgiving celebration was celebrated even earlier in Canada (1578), and by Spanish explorers in Florida (1565).
"The reason that we have so many myths associated with Thanksgiving is that it is an invented tradition. It doesn't originate in any one event. It is based on the New England puritan Thanksgiving, which is a religious Thanksgiving, and the traditional harvest celebrations of England and New England and maybe other ideas like commemorating the pilgrims. All of these have been gathered together and transformed into something different from the original parts." –James W. Baker, Senior Historian at Plimoth Plantation http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving-quiz
The history of the use of the turkey is just as clouded. If you follow the idea of the Plymouth first Thanksgiving, then the turkey was used as of the first dinner. This is doubted by many historians though. The wild turkey, you see, was nothing like the domesticated turkey that we know now. The wild turkey of that day was a brightly plumed, cunning bird of flight. And would have been quite difficult to catch. It is said that the meal more likely consisted of deer, clams, and lobster.
“After the first Thanksgiving in 1621, it took over 200 years before Thanksgiving Day was officially proclaimed as a national day of thanksgiving, praise and prayer in 1863.” http://urbanext.illinois.edu/turkey/history.cfm
Basically, the turkey was fresh, affordable, and big enough to feed a crowd. They were also seen as fancy enough to be used for a special occasion, and were being used in British holidays already. Regardless of the origin, 20% of the United States consumption of turkey happens on Thanksgiving. And I can’t argue against it being a lovely tradition, and one that I can’t imagine going a year without. Although, personally, I will be enjoying a lovely Tofurky tomorrow.
It seems that history leads us to many an unanswered question. The turkey dinner is no different. It may be that a turkey was used from the very beginning, but that’s unlikely. By the time the holiday was made official in 1863, the use of turkeys was already in full swing. All we know is that it’s not going to change now. Unless of course your more of a ham person…