Over the river and through the woods,
To Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
– “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day”
In a few short weeks, Americans will gather around the dinner table, loosen their belts, and stuff themselves fuller than the deep-fried, baked, braised or boiled (like the Pilgrims may have) turkey that serves as the culinary star of the fourth Thursday of November feast better known as Thanksgiving.
An homage to the long mythicized 1621 three-day meal between the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag people in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the modern precursor of Thanksgiving began, according to Britannica.com, “with a few colonists going out ‘fowling,’ possibly for turkeys but more probably for the easier prey of geese and ducks, since they ‘in one day killed as much as…served the company almost a week.’ Next, 90 or so Wampanoag made a surprise appearance at the settlement’s gate, doubtlessly unnerving the 50 or so colonists. Nevertheless, over the next few days the two groups socialized without incident. The Wampanoag contributed venison to the feast, which included the fowl and probably fish, eels, shellfish, stews, vegetables, and beer. Since Plymouth had few buildings and manufactured goods, most people ate outside while sitting on the ground or on barrels with plates on their laps. The men fired guns, ran races, and drank liquor, struggling to speak in broken English and Wampanoag.”
Years later, urged by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular magazine, President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863 proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation cementing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Between 1621 and 1942, Thanksgiving collected new traditions. Turkey day football kicked off in 1876 with a tilt between Yale and Princeton. The annual Macy’s parade first took flight with billowy balloons in 1927. And, course, Thanksgiving no longer is complete without the annual cavalcade of gridlock that traditionally makes Thanksgiving the busiest auto travel day of the year.
Today, modern Thanksgiving has evolved into a festival of the four F’s: Food, folks, fun and football.
Below, several members of the Beacon community share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions.
For sophomore Grace Hicks, Thanksgiving means a trip to Selma, Alabama to “grandma’s to eat a great meal of turkey, veggies, fruit salad, stuffing and assorted desserts.” Her grandmother, Hicks said, “does most of the cooking, but sometimes I do help if we get there in time since my parents live an hour and a half away from her. She makes different desserts every year.”
Freshman Sam Reilly’s clan makes the pilgrimage to Troutman, North Carolina to spend the holiday with her aunt. They feast, watch football, and the following day sled into Christmas season by watching “Frosty the Snowman.”
Junie Robinson “liked when I would go to Boston, Massachusetts” to visit Robinson’s grandfather. On the days before Thanksgiving, Robinson, a sophomore, “would watch Barbie movies” and on the big day would sit around with the paternal relatives soaking up together time.
In a way, the Stone family’s Thanksgiving tradition revisits outdoorsy nature of the 1621 gathering.
“We camp all week at our local state park,” said Monica Morse Stone, mom to Augustina Stone, a freshman. “It’s been our tradition for this will be our 15th year. It’s awesome because no electronics and we play board games to connect.”