The earthiness of beets provides a nice counterbalance or alternative to a traditional, sweet cranberry sauce, and the vinaigrette with orange brightens up the dish. The beets can be roasted and the vinaigrette prepared ahead so that you can pull together all the components once you pull your turkey out of the oven.
Oven Roasted Baby Beets with Orange Vinaigrette
(Makes 4 servings)
- 2 bunches baby red beets, scrubbed, stems trimmed
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, cut in half
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 cups (not packed) baby arugula
- 2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
To roast beets: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place beets, thyme, garlic, and shallot in center of large piece of aluminum foil, then fold up sides of foil to form pouch, leaving open at top. Pour oil and water over the beets and season with salt and pepper. Roast beets for 25 to 30 minutes, or until small paring knife can be inserted into center of a beet with no resistance. Set aside to cool slightly.
To make vinaigrette: Into medium bowl, finely grate orange zest from 1 orange. Cut off tops and bottoms of 2 oranges. Using small sharp knife, cut away peel and white pith from oranges, following curve of oranges from top to bottom. Holding 1 orange in your hand and working over bowl, make 2 cuts along membranes on either side of segment, then lift segment out of membranes and drop it into bowl. Repeat to remove all segments from both oranges, and set segments aside. Squeeze membranes over bowl of orange zest to release 1 tablespoon of juice.
Whisk vinegar, shallot, and Dijon into bowl of orange zest and juice. Slowly add oil while whisking to blend completely. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve: Quarter beets and arrange them on center of platter with orange segments. Sprinkle arugula over. Drizzle vinaigrette over and serve.
Make-Ahead: The beets can be roasted and vinaigrette and orange segments prepared up to 8 hours ahead, covered separately and refrigerated. Let beets and vinaigrette stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and rewhisk vinaigrette before serving.
- Calories: 196
- Total Fat: 10 g
- Saturated Fat: 1 g
- Sodium: 79 mg
- Carbohydrate: 22 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Diabetic Exchanges: 0.5 fruit, 2.5 vegetable, 2 fat
Credit: Recipe © Curtis Stone; photo by Ray Kachatorian
While American Thanksgiving is particularly well-defined, with turkey dinners and traditional sides and Macy’s parades and football on TV, other countries boast their own interesting and meaningful celebrations that make up their concept of Thanksgiving. From Canada to Japan and many points in between, here’s a view of the world through the lens of Thanksgiving and other, similar holiday celebrations.
Liberia brought the Thanksgiving tradition directly from America, owing to its beginnings as a resettlement colony for freed black Americans. The West African country declared its independence in 1847, but its American connection is still represented in its flag, which mirrors the U.S. design. They mark their celebration on the first Thursday in November.
One similar through-line that connects a lot of the Thanksgiving holidays is the celebration of harvest. That’s obviously connected to the tradition and imagery of our American holiday, but it definitely comes into play for Canada. Canadian Thanksgiving occurs in the second Monday of October. The Canadian celebration integrates a number of traditions, including turkey (an American contribution), although regional dishes like salmon are common. Like the States, Canada celebrates with a CFL Football game, while the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Thanksgiving parade runs on CTV.
Australian Thanksgiving is like American Thanksgiving, except that all of the dishes can kill you. Okay, not really, but it is celebrated as a direct result of sailors and whaling ships bringing the tradition to Norfolk Island, which is an Australian territory. They celebrate it there on the last Wednesday of November. More Australians have adopted the observation of the holiday, as 2016 saw a boost in turkey sales both in November and in July. The July increase comes from the phenomenon of “Christmas in July,” when European transplants have Christmas-style festivities because that’s when the weather Down Under is closest to that of winter in Europe.
Japan marks a November holiday called Labor Thanksgiving Day, traditionally held on the 23rd. Its historical beginning goes back to the harvest celebration of Niiname-no-Matsuri, which was a Shinto ritual enacted by the Emperor. It picked up the Labor Thanksgiving Day name and official holiday status during the post-World War II occupation of Japan by the United States. The modern interpretation of the event commemorates labor, production, and peace. School children make cards for public servants like health care workers, police, firefighters, and members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force and Coast Guard. Family dinners are a staple of the day.
5. United Kingdom
The closest direct antecedent to American Thanksgiving would be the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving observed in the U.K. Extending back to ancient Britain, the celebration would come in the form of a community gathering and meal upon the completion of the harvest. The official date is set for September or October, and collecting food to donate to charities is a common activity.
Germany has Erntedankfest, another harvest celebration, that is largely religious in nature. It takes place on the first Sunday of October. Americans are more familiar with Oktoberfest, which runs over two weeks and generally crosses over the date of Erntedankfest. Oktoberfest, however, likely originated as a continuing tradition that began with a royal wedding, whereas Erntedankfest is a more sedate, gratitude-oriented affair.
The Harvest Thanksgiving Festival of India is called Thai Pongal (or Ponkal). The four-day January festival was traditionally held in praise of the Sun God, and a has a history that runs back more than ten centuries. There are other similar festivals throughout India, including Makar Sankranti on the Hindu calendar, and Puspuni, which hails from the Indian state of Odisha. Rice is central to all the celebrations; a key event in Thai Pongal is the ceremonial boiling of the first rice of the harvest season.
8. The Philippines
The Philippines has had an on-off relationship with Thanksgiving. As an American colony, it held a very American version of Thanksgiving. The celebration went underground during World War II when Japan occupied the islands, lasting until the late ’60s as a kind of secret event. President Ferdinand Marcos reinstituted it as a September observation under his reign, but it was discontinued after his ouster in 1986. Thanksgiving exists today primarily due to the aggressive marketing of the SM Supermalls chain of shopping centers. Businesses now offer big Thanksgiving sales around September, which is seen of the official kick-off of the (very long) Christmas season for the islands.
Featured image: Shutterstock
The Pilgrims were a central part of Thanksgiving when I was a child, and well into my adulthood. The Pilgrims offering thanks for a bountiful harvest that first fall in the New World — in October 1621, not today’s November — were the centerpiece of the holiday.
It’s different now.
When Thanksgiving rolls around each November, the Pilgrims have so faded from our history that their story might have been written in invisible ink.
If you think 1620 is so long ago — who cares when the Bears are kicking off against the Lions — let me tell you about one of them, especially appropriate this year, when women have been so much in the news.
Susanna Jackson White.
She was one of the passengers on the Mayflower when it sailed out of Plymouth Harbor in England on Sept. 16, 1620. It was a small ship, by today’s standards, 90 feet long and 27 feet wide. A tennis court is 78 feet long, 26 feet wide (for singles play). The Pilgrims didn’t have assigned cabins. They crossed in the cargo area … because they were the cargo. And a larger one than intended. The Pilgrims had started out with two ships, but the second, the Speedwell, developed a leak after sailing — not just once, but twice — and they had to return to England. After the second return to port, almost 40 of the Speedwell passengers were added to the original 65 on the Mayflower. The shortage of food, the rigors of a crossing so rough that one storm caused the ship’s pitching to crack a main beam, must surely have been the more difficult for Susanna, who was seven months pregnant.
The bad weather persisted after they reached America, sighting the “hook” of present-day Cape Cod. They tried repeatedly to sail south to their original destination, the Colony of Virginia, but the winter weather and rough seas forced them back to Cape Cod. The delays in sailing, the weather that then kept them from going farther south, meant they would have to set up their settlement in the New World in New England.
While the ship lay at anchor off Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Susanna’s husband, William White, on November 21, 1620, with the 40 other men signed the Mayflower Compact — the document that envisioned a government of laws, not men, a government that took its consent from the governed. The document that is considered by many to be the keystone of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
While the ship lay at anchor, Susanna also produced her contribution to history: the first English-born child in New England, a son named Peregine.
It took a month for the Pilgrims to find a site for their settlement, a cleared area that had once been an Indian village on a good harbor. December 20, the Mayflower dropped anchor at Plymouth. Whether or not they actually stepped out on Plymouth Rock when the Mayflower shallop (think lifeboat or really big rowboat) reached the beach is not clear. Historians dismiss it, even the story that has come to be legend for some, that the first to do so was Mary Chilton, 12. But anyone who has travelled with children constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” can easily imagine her eagerness to jump out, rock or not.
To give the families safe shelter aboard ship while they built their houses ashore, the captain of the Mayflower delayed his return voyage to England. But the days were cold. New England winter cold. And after the long voyage on short rations, a “General Sickness” began to take its toll. William White was one of the 51 who died that first winter — February 21, 1621. The loss to Susanna, left alone with a 5-year-old son and new baby, was compounded by the danger inherent in their steadily shrinking number; indeed, to keep the Indians from knowing how few there were, the dead were buried at night, in a common grave that was not marked.
With the arrival of spring and warmer weather, the captain of the Mayflower made preparations to sail. He offered to take with him anyone who wished to return to England. Although 51 of the 102 had died — literally, half — not one went back.
Still, one can only begin to imagine Susanna’s feelings as she stood on the desolate shore, even the Whites’ two servants dead, her small son at her side and six-month-old baby in her arms, watching the ship sail away.
Leafing through an old book some years ago — an old-fashioned book printed on paper so thick it might have been used for Tiffany Christmas cards — I came across an illustration. The full-page drawing, with a decidedly romantic quality, as I remember it, showed Susanna looking up, to see Edward Winslow, whose wife had died March 24, watching not only the departing ship but Susanna. Whether this has any basis in fact, I know not. I do know Susanna White and Edward Winslow were married May 12th.
Anyone feeling the marriage showed undue haste should remember that the society as well as the settlement was built around the family; hence, in an age when death was a commonplace event, it was not unusual for widows and widowers to remarry quickly. Just take a stroll through an old cemetery.
The wedding of Susanna White and Edward Winslow made Susanna the first English bride in New England.
The spring also marked better times. A treaty of peace was negotiated with the local Indian Chief Massasoit. And Squanto, a Native American who spoke English because he’d lived in England (long story), taught the Pilgrims how to use locally caught fish to fertilize the land and how to plant corn … five kernels. (One for the blackbird, one for the crow, one for the cutworm, and two to grow.)
That fall, “Our harvest being gotten in,” as Edward Winslow put it, “our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together.” The 90 Indians who came contributed five deer. Susanna, one of four adult women to survive the first year, presumably was there, perhaps basting one of the fowl.
When Edward Winslow, long a leader of the colony, became the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, serving in 1633-1634 — also, 1636-1637, 1644-1645 — Susanna became the First Lady of the colony.
In 1633 it was a much larger colony, land grants having been awarded in late 1627. Although it is not known exactly when they did so, Myles Standish and John Alden — of Henry Wadworth Longfellow fame and countless grade school Thanksgiving pageants — moved north to Duxbury. The Winslows went on to Green Harbor in what is now the town of Marshfield, where they built a handsome residence, “Careswell,” named for a family seat of Winslow’s in England. Their move north was prompted not only by the granting of land but by the fast-growing Massachusetts Bay Colony at Boston, which offered a market for the cattle they could raise.
The growth of the Massachusetts Bay Colony signaled the overshadowing of the Plymouth Colony. By 1643, Plymouth had joined the New England Confederation. Josiah Winslow, the first of Susanna and Edward Winslow’s children who lived to adulthood, followed in his father’s distinguished footsteps. Educated at the new Harvard College, he served as the Plymouth Commissioner to the Confederation.
During one of Edward Winslow’s trips to England on behalf of the colony, he was appointed by Oliver Cromwell to head an expedition against the Spaniards in the West Indies in 1655. He came down with fever on the voyage and died May 8, 1655.
Susanna and Josiah were mentioned in his will. The fact that Edward Winslow made no provision for Susanna in London, where he was living at this time, leads historians to conclude that she had remained at their home in Marshfield, Mass. And was still living.
Josiah Winslow continued to follow in his father’s footsteps.
When in 1673 he became governor of the Plymouth Colony, Susanna became the mother of the first native-born governor of any of the American colonies.
Josiah died December 18, 1680, in Marshfield. Because he made no mention of his mother in his will, which was dated July 2, 1675, it is assumed she was dead.
As there is no record of the year of Susanna’s death, there is no record of where she is buried, although it is thought she rests in the Winslow cemetery in Marshfield.
A year or so ago, though, I chanced upon the possibility that she is actually buried in the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston. Laid out in 1660, originally part of the Boston Common, it is a popular site on The Freedom Trail today, for it is the final resting place of the victims of the Boston Massacre and three signers of the Declaration of Independence — John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Trent Paine — not to mention the parents of Benjamin Franklin. If Susanna is buried there, 150 years later, give or take — May 1818 — the empty grave to one side of her final resting place was occupied by another individual who has a place in our history: Paul Revere.
Although this cannot be substantiated, I pass it along, because there is a grave next to Paul Revere that has no gravestone. And John Endicott, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who died March 15, 1665, and was thought for more than 300 years to have been buried elsewhere, is actually in the Old Granary Burying Ground. His gravestone had been destroyed.
Why not Susanna’s?
Why not Susanna in the historic old cemetery on the Freedom Trail?
- The mother of the first English-born child in New England.
- The first bride in New England.
- The First Lady of the Plymouth Colony … on three occasions.
- The mother of the first native-born governor of an American colony.
And Susanna was just one chapter in the Pilgrim Story.
That deserves a place at the table any day. Particularly, the Thursday each year that is Thanksgiving.
Featured image: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Wikimedia Commons)
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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS
Anyone celebrating Thanksgiving with a group of people who all adhere to the exact same diet has much to be thankful for indeed. Can you imagine? For the rest of us, it’s a yearly tradition of juggling preferences, dietary decisions, and strict allergies. However, accommodating for dietary restrictions on Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be so taxing that you forget it’s a four-day weekend. With some planning, you can make all of your guests feel comfortable without adding the work of a four-star chef to your holiday.
There are a few things to remember when you have guests who require some tweaks to the feast menu:
- Ask about your guests’ needs ahead of time. The sooner you know what people can and can’t eat, the more time you have to prepare an accommodating meal.
- They don’t need to eat every single dish on the table. People with specific diets are used to opting out of certain foods. Remember that, between every dish available, much of your spread will probably meet their needs. They will likely be ecstatic if you make anything special at all.
- Everything doesn’t have to be made from scratch. We are living in the golden age of specialty grocery stores where you can find a cornucopia of packaged products to suit almost every need. They will also have dietary restrictions marked clearly, to eliminate any confusion.
- Use index cards to mark special dishes on the buffet. Just because your nephew’s fiance is vegan, that doesn’t mean she wants a big discussion about it. She’ll be thankful for your discretion.
- Ask your guests to bring a dish to the party. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with dietary caveats, there’s nothing wrong with asking people to “pitch in” a side that suits their needs. If you do, ask this of all your guests so it doesn’t seem as though you’re put out and can’t be bothered to accommodate your friends with dietary restrictions.
Think of guests with dietary needs as an opportunity to learn new skills in the kitchen and improve your resume as a gracious host. Here are some of the most common diets, along with some dishes you can prepare to wow your meatless and wheatless company.
People following a gluten-free diet steer clear of grains like wheat, barley, and rye. In cases of celiac disease, this diet is necessary, but some follow it for health benefits. Gluten is fairly easy to avoid in homemade food (if you aren’t using flour or the aforementioned grains), but it can be tricky to be sure about processed foods if they don’t display a gluten-free (GF) label. The recipe below for Cornbread and Wild Rice Stuffing is a sure thing for non-gluten guests.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish, and that means no meat-based stocks either. Side dishes are easy to make vegetarian by just omitting meat or fish, and you can serve a protein-rich, animal-free main course that even the turkey-eaters will love. Make some simple Red Lentil Meatballs from the recipe below, and check out our guide to making your own meat alternatives.
Whereas vegetarians eschew meat, a vegan diet avoids all animal products. Vegan foods will contain no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey. Gelatin is also off-limits. Some side dishes, like mashed potatoes and stuffing, are easy to make vegan. Our recipe for Miso Gravy is a flavorful alternative that assures your vegan guest can still celebrate like the rest of us.
The sugar found in dairy products, lactose, can’t be digested easily by some people. Conveniently, vegan and paleo foods are safe for the lactose intolerant. The recipe below for Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheeze is a dairy-free delight.
Brooklyn Farm Girl’s Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes are a simple alternative you can make alongside your regular mashed potatoes by adding another step.
The paleo diet, or caveman diet, limits adherents to foods eaten during the Paleolithic era — lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish — no grains, beans, potatoes or dairy. The hunter-gatherers at your Thanksgiving table might be okay with leniency on this diet during the holidays, but, if not, you can still provide some caveman-style sides to go with the turkey. Check out the easy recipe for Mashed Cauliflower below.
Cornbread and Wild Rice Stuffing (Gluten-Free)
- 1 pan gluten-free cornbread, cut and dried like croutons
- 1 cup black rice
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 2 celery ribs, minced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
- ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper
Melt butter in a pan. Add onion and celery, and cook until fragrant. Add chopped sage and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cook rice according to package instructions. It’s okay if the rice is a little undercooked, since it will be cooked more anyway.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cornbread croutons, cooked rice, contents of the pan, parsley, and chicken broth. Stir. Whisk the eggs and add to the bowl.
Transfer the mixing bowl into a buttered baking dish. Cover and bake at 350° F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is browned, about 45 minutes more.
Red Lentil Meatballs (Vegetarian)
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- ½ cup dried couscous
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp vegetarian bouillon
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
Cook the lentils. Bring the water to a boil, then lower it to a simmer until the lentils are done.
Dice the sweet potatoes and boil them until they slide off the tines of a fork.
Cook the couscous according to instructions.
Sauté the onion and garlic lightly in olive oil.
Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Alternatively, you can blend everything together in a food processor for a smoother texture. Pulse the food processor several times, making sure you don’t overmix.
Form the mixture into 1-inch diameter balls, and space them out on an oiled baking sheet. Cook at 400° F for 10 to 15 minutes, then flip the meatballs and lower the oven temperature to 350° F. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve them in a marinara sauce with parmesan and fresh basil, or make meatball subs.
Miso Gravy (Vegan)
- 3 tbsp vegan butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 tbsp white miso paste
- 3 cups vegetable broth (or mushroom broth)
- 1 dash soy sauce
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- Fresh ground black pepper
Melt vegan butter in a pan. Add the flour and stir to create a thick paste.
At the same time, add the miso paste to the broth and heat. Stir to combine.
Add the broth-miso mixture, soy sauce, and onion powder to the pan. Stir vigorously. Add fresh ground pepper and cook to desired thickness. Remember the gravy will thicken more as it cools.
Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheeze (Lactose Free, Vegetarian)
- 1 medium butternut squash, halved, with seeds and guts removed
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 can coconut milk
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 16-oz. box dried macaroni noodles
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs, or homemade breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
Lightly coat the inside of each squash half with olive oil and salt and pepper, then place them face down on a baking sheet and bake at 400° F for 20 minutes.
Once the squash has cooled, scoop the insides of each half into a food processor or blender. Add in the coconut milk, nutritional yeast, Dijon, garlic powder, and onion powder, and process until smooth.
Cook the macaroni noodles according to box instructions. Drain the noodles and combine with the sauce in a baking dish. Top with smoked paprika and panko breadcrumbs and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.
Mashed Cauliflower (Paleo, Vegan)
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
¼ cup almond or coconut milk
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Boil 1 ½ inches of water in a pot. Place a steamer basket into the pot and fill with cauliflower florets. Cover and steam for about 12 minutes, or until completely tender.
Remove the pot from heat and remove the basket, allowing it to drain completely. Empty the pot and place it back on the stove at low-medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is just browning.
Remove the pot from heat and add garlic and almond milk. Using an immersion blender, or a food processor, blend the contents of the pot completely. Top with fresh chives and serve.
Featured image: Shutterstock
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When it comes to federal holidays in America, most people don’t think much about them unless they’re happy for an extra day off of work. But behind the list of dates on your job benefits form are Congressional oversight, rules, compromises, and, occasionally, bitter feuds. With Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, November boasts two federal holidays; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was also signed into law by President Ronald Reagan 25 years ago this month. In appreciation of those dates, we’re taking a look at a few things you might not know about your federal holidays.
1. There are Ten Official Federal Holidays
Federal holidays receive their designations from the U.S. Congress. Their jurisdiction includes federal institutions and their employees, and the District of Columbia; individual states and cities usually map their own observances onto the various holidays so that schools or other entities may be closed. The ten holidays by their official names are: New Year’s Day; Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Washington’s Birthday; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Veterans Day; Thanksgiving Day; and Christmas Day.
2. MLK is the Newest Day
The most recently created federal holiday is the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., commonly referred to as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or abbreviated as MLK. The first bill to suggest the holiday went before Congress in 1979, but missed passage by five votes. The issue gained traction with the public, generating petitions and endorsements from celebrities like Stevie Wonder. Debate became incredibly contentious in the Senate; when North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms led opposition to the holiday and produced a document that he claimed contained proof of King’s association with communists, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan threw the papers on the Senate floor and stomped on them. On November 2, 1983, President Reagan signed the bill, with observances set to begin in 1986; however, some individual states resisted implementing the day as a paid holiday for years. Arizona’s resistance lost the state a chance to host Super Bowl XXVII. MLK wasn’t acknowledged as a state holiday in South Carolina until 2000.
3. It’s Still Washington’s Birthday
It’s widely believed that George Washington’s birthday was simply combined with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday to create President’s Day. Despite the name being in common use on calendars, President’s Day really only exists at state levels. The official federal name remains Washington’s Birthday; however, depending on your state, you could live a place that celebrates that, Presidents’ Day, President’s Day (note the apostrophe moved), Presidents Day (note the lack of apostrophe) or Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday. Colorado and Ohio call it Washington-Lincoln Day, Alabama throws in Thomas Jefferson, and Arkansas chooses to also recognize Daisy Gatson Bates, the newspaper owner and civil rights leader that advised and the aided the students known as the Little Rock Nine.
4. Columbus Day is Falling Out of Favor at the Local Level
Of the ten federal holidays, Columbus Day continues to be the one that generates the most controversy. Apart from the fact that Columbus never actually set foot in what is now the United States, much more has been learned and understood about his poor and violent treatment of the people of Central America. Though there is strong support in some quarters for keeping the holiday as is, particularly among many Italian-Americans who view it with a sense of pride, many states and cities have begun dismissing or replacing the holiday. Florida, Hawaii, Vermont, South Dakota, and Alaska not only do not recognize it, but have replaced it with Indigenous People’s Day. Iowa and Nevada don’t recognize it, but have state laws on the books to “proclaim” it; it is also not an official holiday in Oregon. As of 2017, more than 55 major American cities proclaim Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day. The United Native America group actively campaigns to drop it at the federal level.
5. Memorial Day and Veterans Day Are Not the Same Thing
The U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs, as you might expect, says it best: “ Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime.” The placement of Veterans Day on November 11 is owed to the Armistice that ended World War I on that date in 1918; in fact, the day was called Armistice Day until a change was made by Congress in 1954. The history of Memorial Day, and its origins as Decoration Day, was covered by our Saturday Evening Post archivist Jeff Nilsson in 2009.
6. And You Thought Family Thanksgiving Could Be Contentious . . .
Almost since the founding of the United States, the government has called for national days of prayer or the giving of thanks. Obviously, this tradition goes back to the pilgrims, but actual government recognition started with a proclamation from George Washington in 1789; he designated a Thanksgiving Day for the 26th of November. For decades after, Thanksgiving Days were declared off and on, with state and territorial governors making declarations as well. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln declared another national Thanksgiving Day, fixing it on the last Thursday of November.
That day held for the most part until 1939. Then, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, upon advice from department store
magnate Fred Lazarus Jr, decided to take advantage of a five-week November and designate Thanksgiving as the next-to-last Thursday of the month. The idea was to promote more shopping and commerce to help combat the lingering effects of the Great Depression. Prior to that time, it was considered unseemly to promote holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, and this would give both shoppers and businesses an extra week. Republicans in Congress objected, and discontent broke across state lines, with 23 states acknowledging Roosevelt’s date and 22 sticking to the last Thursday; Texas decided to take both days off. After two more years of disagreement, both houses of Congress passed a joint resolution that made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November; that meant that in some years it would be the last Thursday, and other years it would be next-to-last, depending on how the calendar fell. FDR signed the bill on December 26th, 1941, enshrining Thanksgiving Day as an official federal holiday.
This series by American studies professor Ben Railton explores the connections between America’s past and present.
The celebration of Thanksgiving offers Americans a chance to consider some of the earliest post-contact histories of this land. While there are many myths associated with the story of the “First Thankgiving,” that 1621 harvest celebration genuinely connects us to early American histories that we all celebrate.
In the case of Tisquantum (Squanto), a Patuxet Wampanoag Native American whose story famously intersected with that of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, remembering his life highlights the horrific effects of early racial divides and models the possibilities of an inclusive America.
Tisquantum’s post-contact story (his life before European contact is largely unknown) begins with kidnapping and enslavement. English explorers began enslaving indigenous people in the earliest years of English arrival to the Americas, well before there were English settlements in places like Massachusetts (where Tisquantum’s Patuxet tribe resided, on the western coast of what would come to be known as Cape Cod Bay). Explorers such as Captain George Weymouth kidnapped Massachusetts natives as early as 1605, and over the next decade the practice became common.
Tisquantum was enslaved in 1614, when Thomas Hunt, an English explorer traveling with Captain John Smith on his trading expedition to New England, kidnapped 27 local natives and transported them to Spain, where he sold them into slavery. The next few years in Tisquantum’s life are once again mostly lost to historians, but at some point he made his way to England and from there to a new English colony in Newfoundland, where he was sent as a slave (or perhaps by this time a servant, although in either case he likely had no say in the matter).
Around 1619, an English member of that colony, Thomas Dermer, brought Tisquantum back to New England, where Tisquantum learned that the rest of his Patuxet tribe had met a tragic end, destroyed by one of the many epidemics that Europeans brought to the Americas as an accidental complement to their more intentional genocides.
Left without a home or community by European devastations both personal and global, Tisquantum went to live with a neighboring Cape Cod tribe, the Pokanoket Wampanoag. At this point, it would have been entirely understandable if he had wanted nothing more to do with Europeans, or even had become overtly hostile to any such further contacts. Yet a year or so later, when the Mayflower arrived off of Cape Cod in November 1620 and the Pilgrims settled at nearby Plymouth, quite close to the site of the Patuxet tribe’s former summer village, Tisquantum decided instead to take on a potent cross-cultural role. He befriended and aided the English, worked to bring together the English and native cultures (despite suspicions of his motives from both sides), and modeled an inclusive New England and American community in the process.
A number of factors likely played into that surprising decision. Tisquantum’s years of slavery and servitude in Europe and Newfoundland had enabled him to learn English (among other languages), and of course had also prepared him to interact with European communities far more easily than most of the period’s Native Americans. It’s also possible that his position with the Pokanoket was not particularly secure (some historians have even argued that he was treated as a prisoner of the tribe), and that he thus saw the arrival of these European settlers as a chance to prove his value to and make powerful friends within multiple communities. Such a perspective would be understandable and wise for anyone in Tisquantum’s position, much less one with years of tragic experiences in his recent past. And in truth, whatever his motivations—and to see them as complex and even contradictory is simply to give him the humanity that racist narratives would deny him—Tisquantum’s efforts did indeed prove invaluable both to the English and for an emerging, inclusive New England community overall.
No moment better exemplifies his multi-layered contributions to that community than the “First Thanksgiving.” While the children’s story version of that autumn 1621 event has been often overplayed in our national collective memories, allowing us to forget the much less attractive histories of genocide and enslavement, we shouldn’t respond by swinging the pendulum too far in the opposite direction and downplaying the moment’s significance. For one thing, the Pilgrims had good reason to hold this three-day autumn celebration (it was held sometime between September and November, and they did not call it Thanksgiving): they had brought in a bountiful harvest, and were envisioning a far less horrific winter than the first they had spent in Plymouth. In his account of the celebration for an English audience in his book Mourt’s Relation (1622), Pilgrim Edward Winslow writes, “although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” And it was chiefly to Tisquantum, and all that he had taught them of farming and trading in the region, that the Pilgrims owed this crucially plentiful autumn harvest.
For another thing, the Pilgrims hosted honored Wampanoag guests at the celebration. As Winslow describes it, “many of the Indians [came] amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.” This peaceful, cross-cultural gathering was far from a given, as the Pilgrims’ first experiences with the Wampanoag in late 1620 and early 1621 had been far more hostile and violent.
William Bradford, the community’s governor at the time of the harvest celebration, describes two such experiences in Chapter 10 of his communal history Of Plymouth Plantation (written between 1630 and 1651 and published posthumously). When the Pilgrims initially explored Cape Cod, they found a store of food that local natives (a few of whom they had just seen for the first time) had clearly hidden from them, and stole from it:
They found where lately a house had been, where some planks and a great kettle was remaining, and heaps of sand newly padded with their hands. Which, they digging up, found in them diverse fair Indian baskets filled with corn, … which seemed to them a very goodly sight. … So, their time limited them being expired, they returned to the ship lest they should be in fear of their safety; and took with them part of the corn.
Bradford uses a Biblical analogy for this moment, comparing the Pilgrims to Jews in Exodus who “carried with them the fruits of the land and showed their brethren.” Yet these fruits were from the natives, not simply the land, and in making them their own the Pilgrims displayed a similar attitude to that of Columbus taking immediate possession of the islands upon arrival.
Having established their relationship with the local indigenous community on these terms, the Pilgrims should not have been surprised that their first encounter with Native Americans was likewise a hostile one. A group of native warriors attacked the encamped Pilgrims; as Bradford writes, “The cry of the Indians was dreadful, especially when they saw the men run out of the rendezvous toward the shallop [small boat] to recover their arms, the Indians wheeling about them.” It is entirely understandable that the English fought back, but when their superior firepower had chased the attackers away, they defined the experience in overarching and overtly exclusionary terms. As Bradford puts it, “Thus it pleased God to vanquish their enemies and give them deliverance.” When Bradford adds that they “called that place the First Encounter,” we can see how foundational this hostile and exclusionary moment was for the Pilgrims and their perspective on indigenous peoples.
Yet less than a year after these two divisive and hostile events, the Pilgrims and Wampanoags were sharing corn at the harvest celebration. The shift was due largely to Tisquantum, and the six-point peace treaty that he — along with Samoset, a visiting Abenaki tribal leader who had learned English from fishermen near the Gulf of Maine and who served as another mediator between the communities — helped broker between Massasoit’s Pokanoket Wampanaog and the Plymouth Pilgrims. The treaty was practical and political for both sides: the Pilgrims of course needed allies in this new world; and the Pokanoket, themselves decimated by illnesses in recent years, sought protection from the neighboring and potentially hostile Narragansett tribe.
Yet nonetheless this agreement, like the harvest celebration that symbolically cemented it and the cross-cultural mediators who negotiated it, illustrated the genuine possibility of an inclusive New England and American community. It is that community, and the complex but inspiring Native American who helped make it possible, for which we should truly be thankful this and every November.
With the holidays upon us, you know that you’re going to have to take on one of the great challenges of American society: the family conversation. We’re all aware of the interpersonal landmines involved in discussing religion, politics, and whatever particular source of friction each family no doubt has. But don’t worry; we’re here to help you face those dining discourse obstacles with our handy list of ten other conversation topics for Thanksgiving dinners.
1. The Proper Way to Cook a Turkey
This is not intended to initiate a new family controversy. We’re well aware that there are proponents of grilling, deep-frying, and other practices. But cooking is a natural topic to work into the holiday discussion, and talking turkey almost always leads to stories of Thanksgiving day tragedy: plastic bags of giblets left inside, fryers over-filled, and frozen birds that wouldn’t thaw til Christmas.
Possible subtopics include:
- Weirdest side dishes (or, where did we get cranberry sauce before the can?)
- Your favorite pie (realizing of course that the anti-pumpkin lobby is at a disadvantage)
- Holiday cooking disasters (as long as no one takes that too personally)
If all else fails, the folks at Butterball may be able to mediate. They’ve operated the Turkey Talk Line for more than 30 years.
2. Auto Maintenance (subcategory: Driving Directions)
Some relatives love to dispense advice on the frequency of oil changes, specific varieties of wax, and the fact that proper tire inflation improves your fuel efficiency. This is related to, but not dependent on, the subcategory of driving directions. Especially prevalent in grandfathers, this strain of conversation is concerned with how you got to where you are from where you were, how you’re going back, and if you possibly need an atlas. For added fun, you can show grandma how to use the GPS on her phone.
Possible subtopics include:
- Which is better: hand-washing or automatic car washes?
- Have you seen the price of gas lately?
- Ford vs. Chevy? (remember, tread lightly here)
- Do you really need to change your oil every 3,000 miles?
3. Sports: Holiday Edition
Perhaps you don’t follow football all season long. Maybe you aren’t a football fan, or even that interested in sports. That’s okay! You should go in knowing that three different NFL games with occur on Thanksgiving on three different networks. You’ll get Chicago vs. Detroit, Washington vs. Dallas, and Falcons vs. Saints. Head to NFL.com for a quick refresher on who’s doing great and who’s doing terribly, try to remember at least one quarterback’s name, and you’ll sound like an expert. If they try to push the conversation past that, rely on these simple answers: you follow the teams that are local to you, you prefer the pros to college because you like watching the best of the best, and you’re certain that if (your dad’s favorite team) still featured (your dad’s favorite coach or player) from (your dad’s favorite decade), then they would still be great.
Possible subtopics include:
- Is competitive video gaming a sport?
- Why does everybody sleep on the Indiana Pacers? (Warning, may require extra research)
- Who is the second greatest NBA player of all time? Obviously, Bill Russell is first.
4. How Escrow Works
Take a roomful of adults. Ask them how escrow works. Sit back and enjoy a number of answers equal to the number of adults present. That may sound like a recipe for chaos, but no one really argues about the topic because nearly everyone is so unsure of their own understanding of the concept that they are unlikely to take a strong position on it. For the record, this is what it means.
Possible subtopics that no one understands include:
- Circuit courts
- Millimeter wave scanners
- The Theory of Relativity (we might have also included Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principal, but we weren’t quite sure)
5. Share Funny Animal Photos and Other Memes
Start hitting Save Link now. This might sound like we’re promoting internet culture over reading, going to films, or even watching television, but we’re not. We’re being realistic about the fact that, unless you have a family book club, no one will have read the latest novel that you’ve been reading. Chances are that only a couple of you will have binged the same show, with an added chance that someone else will yell, “No spoilers!” the minute that you bring it up because they’re woefully behind. In fact, it’s not incredibly likely that the majority of your party will have seen the same films; your highest chance of having movies in common comes from Marvel, which have five of the ten highest grossing films in 2018. If you haven’t seen anything, just be ready to agree that A Quiet Place was incredibly scary, you’re looking forward to Crazy Rich Asians sequel China Rich Girlfriend, and that Thor’s arrival in Wakanda is one of the best super-hero scenes ever; do all that, and you’ll be as golden as you hope the dinner rolls are.
Possible memes to show:
6. The Weather
If it’s raining, agree that it’s raining. If it’s snowing, agree that it’s snowing and discuss the amount of impact that said snow had on your arrival. If it’s unseasonably sunny and warm, this is a test. Too deep of a discussion on this variable can slide into a wide-ranging debate on climate change, a topic about which your uncle who believes the moon landing was faked is all too eager to engage. Instead, note that it was a really nice day to travel, and safely redirect back to Topic 2, Subcategory 1.
Possible topics include:
- How hot was this summer?
- Do you think it will be a bad winter?
- I think it’s supposed to rain; what have you heard?
- Are the conditions right for outdoor decorating?
7. The “Who Would You Invite to Dinner?” Gambit
You’re already having a meal together. Here’s a prime opportunity to invoke the fairly reliable question, “If you could invite any three people from all of history to have dinner with you, who would it be?” You can also spin variations, like “any three living people,” “any three fictional people,” and so on. While “all of history” can get pretty predictable (people call for Gandhi the way that people pick the tall guy first for basketball), you can get some interesting mileage out of who chose whom and why. [Note: you might want to invoke a “no politicians” restriction.]
Possible entertaining guests to throw into the mix:
- Mikey from Life cereal
- First U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph (1789)
- Alice Cooper
- Five-time WWE tag team champions The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods)
- Frida Kahlo
What better way to ensure that you have a good time by talking about a good time that you previously had? Let the parents and other folks get out old photos. Encourage “When I Was Your Age” stories. In fact, ask questions about yourself when you were younger, even if you know the answer.
Possible subtopics include:
- Grandma/grandpa’s first job
- Stories about military service, provided that person is willing to share
- Crazy things people did as children or young adults
This is tangentially related to the next point . . .
There’s a distinct possibility that your family gathering will have children present. Take advantage! Talk about baby and toddler milestones. Talk about school with the elementary kids. Solicit pop culture opinions from the teens and rate the withering glances and eye-rolls that they’ll throw at you when they aren’t focused on their devices. Do avoid asking any high school or college-aged students if they’ve started looking at the job market yet; no dinner was ever improved by a panic attack.
- Little kids: What do you want Santa to bring?
- Tween girls: Why won’t your parents let you have an Instagram account?
- Tween boys: What is Fortnite?
- Teen boys and girls: Don’t even bother
- Kids 18+: How have older generations ruined the world?
10. Say, Did You Know the Entire Archive of The Saturday Evening Post is Now Available Online?
We’ll give you 197 years’ of American stories to talk about. Better get reading!
With all the concerns about Christmas — or at least Christmas shopping — intruding on Thanksgiving, maybe Thanksgiving should always be the last Thursday of the month. That was the day Lincoln set aside as the national day of giving thanks in 1863.
But in 1939, President Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday of November.
Naturally, many Americans were displeased with the change. They didn’t like having their holiday traditions moved around. And many were upset over Roosevelt’s reason for the move.
That year, Thanksgiving landed on the last day of November. Consequently the Christmas shopping season, which Thanksgiving traditionally marked even then, would be only 24 days long. Hoping to help retailers by extending the shopping season, Roosevelt moved the holiday—and the traditional start of shopping—back one week.
But many Americans had already made plans for the holiday. Football teams had already scheduled their last games of the season — traditionally played on Thanksgiving Day — on the 30th. The new date became a political issue. Republicans who claimed Franklin Roosevelt was tampering with Lincoln’s memory by moving the holiday opposed the holiday’s move and referred to the new date as “Franksgiving.” A New York Times poll showed Republicans opposed the move by 79 percent, Democrats by 48 percent.
Meanwhile, the dueling dates provided material for humorists, like the poet who wrote this item for the Post on October 14, 1939:
For practical reasons, Thanksgiving’s been changed,
So I’m thinking of pulling a fast one
By changing my birthday, on account of it comes
Too soon after the last one.
And Jack Benny’s writers worked the topic over for his November 19 show.
In this clip from The Jack Benny Program, Benny’s wife and co-star, Mary Livingstone, reads her poem about the confusion the two Thanksgivings caused. The first voice you’ll hear is Jack Benny. The second male voice is Benny’s announcer, Don Wilson. The third man, who is “all set to be one of them pilgrims,” is bandleader Phil Harris, who played the character of a vain and ignorant playboy. And the fourth is a writer who would occasionally come in to deliver one-liners.
Listen to the clip from Jack Benny’s November 19th, 1939 show
There is no holiday, except Christmas, that has more tradition surrounding it. What does July 4th or Labor Day have that compares with the wealth of traditions surrounding Thanksgiving? The big turkey dinner, the football games on TV, Macy’s parade, the start of Christmas season—all in honor of a three-day feast in Plymouth Colony that occurred 391 years ago.
While we know the traditions, we’re still fuzzy on the meaning and origins of the day. For instance, we’re not quite certain that the 1621 Massachusetts feast was, in fact, America’s first Thanksgiving. An earlier thanksgiving-like feast had been held in the Colony of Virginia in 1610. And residents of St. Augustine, Florida, talk of a thanksgiving celebration held by Spanish colonists in their city back in 1565.
Furthermore, as Roger Butterfield’s 1948 article “What You Don’t Know About Thanksgiving” points out, the Pilgrim feast of 1621 did not launch a yearly tradition. There is no record of a similar event the following year. In fact, the 1621 festival was not a “thanksgiving feast” but a simple harvest celebration. The first event dedicated to giving thanks to God was held in 1623 after a heavy rainfall resulted in a larger harvest than expected.
It really wasn’t until 1777 that the Continental Congress spread the idea of a thanksgiving day beyond New England, when it asked colonists to set aside December 18 as a day of prayer to God for an independent and strong nation. That same year, George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving day to celebrate the victory at Saratoga.
Not everyone welcomed this idea of a government holy day. When a congressional bill proposed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789, two Southern congressmen shot to their feet to protest, as Butterfield writes. “They did not think, they said, that the people had anything to be thankful for in their new government, and even if they did, the president and Congress had no right to tell them how and when to express their thankfulness.” Ultimately, President Washington overrode their objections and proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving for that year.
But it was very different from what we know today. For most Americans the holiday was honored by fasting and prayer.
Thanksgiving would not become a national holiday until 1863, and its designation was more political than religious. Though President Lincoln called it “a day of thanksgiving and praise for our beneficent father who dwelleth in the heavens,” his principle goal was to reinforce the sense of union in loyal states through a commonly celebrated holiday.
Yet these same editors, just three years earlier, had seemed to recognize that some measure of joyous celebration was to be expected, even encouraged. As they wrote in 1874:
There’s a deep fund of vitality in the human breast, and the most solemn or most sorrowful observance cannot induce a major of the people to wear long face and penitential hearts. And who can blame them? We have all legitimate causes enough for depression without suffering ourselves to be legislated into the blues, while our hears are merry and our horizons clear
The right to laugh or cry is one of the reserved rights of the people, not delegated to Congress, but retained as a constituent of individual freedom.
So if we find indecorously joyful faces shaming the solemn occasion, we can console ourselves with the reflection that laughter is better than tears, and that the making of happy people is the crowning glory of a good government.
But now joy is our business. We celebrate the good that has come unto us. And God is best thanked for His gifts by clear brows and smiling faces. The let us shout and be merry, eat our fill, and laugh to our heart’s content while east and west, north and sought, the wail of the turkey is heard in the land.
That’s the presumptuous title of a Post article from 1948.
What could a 61-year-old article possibly tell us about this well-known holiday?
Surely we learned all the important points: Puritans, Native Americans, communal turkey dinner, a celebration of harmony and plenty.
The fact is, we’re not quite sure about several points. For example, we’re not certain that the first Thanksgiving in America was held in Plymouth colony. Before the famed Pilgrim dinner of 1621, there had been Thanksgiving feasts in the Virginia colony in 1607 and 1610. Now, residents of St. Augustine, Florida, point to a Thanksgiving celebration held in their city by Spanish settlers in 1565. And, of course, the first Thanksgiving lies far back in prehistory, for harvest festivals are as old as farming.
The Pilgrim feast did not launch a tradition. There is no record that they held another feast the following year. It might have been repeated in 1623 and 1676, but it was not, as Post author Roger Butterfield noted, a national event.
“For more than 200 years it was largely confined to New England and adjacent regions. During all those years it was regarded with suspicion in other parts of the country, and especially in the South, where it was looked upon as a probable medium of sectarian propaganda for the blue-nosed Puritan clergy.
“When the first national Thanksgiving Day was proposed in Congress in 1789, two Southern congressmen jumped up and objected—they did not think, they said, that the people had anything to be thankful for in their new government, and even if they did, the President and Congress had no right to tell them how and when to express their thankfulness…”
Separating Church and State
Nonetheless, President George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789. But other administrations seemed to avoid the issue with its political and religious complications.
“Thanksgiving as a national holiday almost died out, because of the stubborn opposition of another Virginia President, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson took the position that Thanksgiving was a purely religious matter, and the President had no right to do or say anything about it, since the Constitution specifically prohibits any connection between church and state.”
Most presidents avoided the subject until Abraham Lincoln was inspired by Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale was the editor of the most popular fashion magazine of the 1860s (and the author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”). For years she had promoted a single, nationwide celebration of family unity.
“Then,” she wrote, “though the members of the same family might be too far separated to meet around one festive board, they would have the gratification of knowing that all were enjoying the blessings of the day.
“Year after year she bombarded influential public figures—governors, mayors, college presidents, editors and judges—with personal letters about Thanksgiving. It was her custom to write to each new President on the subject as soon as he took office.”
She had a particularly convincing argument for President Lincoln:
“If Thanksgiving were a national holiday, she argued, it would constitute one more bond to hold the Union together … Would it not be of great advantage socially, nationally, and religiously to have the day of our American Thanksgiving positively settled?
“Putting aside the sectional feelings … would it not be more noble, more truly American, to become nationally in unity when we offer to God our tribute of joy and gratitude for the blessings of the year?
“Bear in mind that 1863 was the year of Gettysburg and Vicksburg and the New York City draft riots—a year of bloodshed and battle, of suffering in both North and South. Yet President Lincoln agreed with Mrs. Hale that the United States had much to be thankful for that year … Within a few weeks a proclamation issued from the White House which did indeed set Thursday, November twenty-sixth, ‘as a day of Thanksgiving and praise for our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.'”
The enduring tradition of his annual holiday starts from this proclamation by Lincoln, who was always ready to use religious arguments to promote national unity.
In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried moving Thanksgiving backwards one week, believing he could help retailers by expanding the Christmas shopping season by seven days. When shoppers didn’t respond, Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving back to its traditional day.
The Abiding Religious Element
One final question: Is Thanksgiving a religious or secular holiday? We naturally assume that Pilgrims would lose no opportunity to thank the God who was the center of their society. It is surprising to learn, then, that Thanksgiving was not a religious occasion, or “holy day,” but the impromptu feast after a particularly good day of hunting (as you’ll see in the original article below.)
Church attendance on Thanksgiving this year will be far less than in the last century. Yet Thanksgiving remains a day of practical holiness: the day that families gather for a meal; children and parents try to reach across their differences; and Americans, it is hoped, extend help and encouragement to the many who need it—all to celebrate the power of unity and shared love. To this degree, Thanksgiving comes closest to a national day of faith and spiritual strength.