Unlike some holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July when people traditionally go out somewhere to celebrate, Thanksgiving is most commonly celebrated at home, with family and friends. This is one of the things I like best about Thanksgiving- we get to share wonderful traditions with those closest to us. While my article does not include all of the various types of traditions, it is by no means an oversight. This is a brief insight into some of the traditions that continue to present day.
These Thanksgiving traditions and trivia include well-known traditions and little-known trivia about the Thanksgiving Day holiday. They are presented to enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of Thanksgiving. Consider sharing these ideas, stories, and trivia with your friends and family during the Thanksgiving holiday.
In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It celebrates the story of the Pilgrim’s meal with the Native Americans and is reserved as a day to spend with loved ones and for giving thanks. But did you know that several other nations also celebrate an official Thanksgiving Day? Some of the other nations include: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia, and Switzerland.
According to most historians, the pilgrims never observed an annual Thanksgiving feast in autumn. In the year 1621, they did celebrate a feast near Plymouth, Massachusetts, following their first harvest. But this feast most people refer to as the first Thanksgiving was never repeated.
Oddly enough, most devoutly religious pilgrims observed a day of thanksgiving with prayer and fasting, not feasting. Yet even though this harvest feast was never called Thanksgiving by the pilgrims of 1621, it has become the model for the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States. Firsthand accounts of this feast, by Edward Winslow and William Bradford, can be found in the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
The traditional Thanksgiving has its roots in the first Thanksgiving celebrations, when there were harvest festivals, or days of thanking God for plentiful crops. It simply reminds us the year 1621 when the Pilgrim’s started the Thanksgiving, which later became a tradition for the entire nation.
In the first Thanksgiving celebrations a thanksgiving feast was organized in which there were dishes like boiled turkey, corn, fruits, vegetables, along with fish, which was packed in salt, and meat that was smoke cured over fires. The pilgrims had invited their neighbors, Native American Indians, to share the thanksgiving dinner. Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving that was to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native American Indians.
Even in modern times the people love to follow the Thanksgiving traditions because the importance of the things involved in the traditional Thanksgiving has not reduced for them in any way.
Most families observe with a large meal and sometimes a religious service. Many countries observe a variation of this celebration or have a different holiday along the same themes. It is common to mark the harvest season with celebratory meals and festivals of thanks within many religions and communities, a theme that dates back to ancient pagan festivals. Protestant religions have many connections to the harvest festival of Thanksgiving.
The most widely practiced ritual is the Thanksgiving meal. This usually includes turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pies, but many feasts differ between families and cultures. Many see it as a celebration of the harvest, especially farmers, and a commemoration of the pilgrims’ successful harvest with the help of Native Americans.
While the tradition is mainly connected to the feast of the Pilgrims, the Puritans started the tradition before coming to the New World. The Catholic Church had instituted so many special days of remembrance, thanks, feasting, fasting, and resting that the Puritans wanted to remove all holidays and only celebrate Days of Thanksgiving or Days of Fasting. These were observed after an act of special providence, which was a disaster or threat of disaster that the Puritans believed were as a result of judgment from God. Events observed with Days of Thanksgiving include the English conquering of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the 1606 Gunpowder Plot catastrophe.
While the American tradition is believed to have origins with the Pilgrims’ meal at Plymouth in 1621, this even was not given proper documentation and many do not wish to involve the relationship of the settlers with the Native Americans on this holiday given the two groups’ violent history. The story goes that after the Pilgrims’ Plymouth colony had a difficult winter filled with disease, starvation, and death, the colony received assistance from Squanto and his Patuxet tribe. The Native Americans allegedly taught the pilgrims to grow their own crops and other methods of survival in the New England environment, in particular the method of using fish to fertilize corn crops. After their first successful harvest, the pilgrims celebrated with a feast at which Squanto and members of his tribe were in attendance.
However, this story is widely debated, as similar stories originate from Spanish settlements and other groups of settlers. Due to this, the story is widely regarded as a cultural myth. In fact, it is believed that Squanto knew how to communicate with the settlers because he was previously enslaved by John Smith and taken on several voyages back to England before returning to his homeland to find the Patuxet tribe eliminated through disease, which was spread by the settlers. With no home tribe, Squanto, also called Tisquantum, settled with the English at the Plymouth colony, later serving as a guide and translator for the settlers as they visited Native American tribes. But many of these tribes distrusted Squanto for his allegiance with the settlers. The holiday’s true origins are attributed to the Puritan Feast of Thanksgiving, a tradition which many pilgrims observed in the New World.
Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States used to differ according to state. It was traditionally celebrated on the last Thursday of November in the early 1800s. Sarah Josepha Hale a writer who became well known for campaigning for an official date for 40 years through letters to political leaders. In 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation that all states will celebrate Thanksgiving on this day. This act was an effort to unite the North and the South, but due to rebellion of the North’s authority, the holiday was not consistently celebrated on the same day until after Reconstruction. A joint resolution was signed by Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 to change the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November rather than the last, believing the earlier economic boost to be beneficial to the United States economy.
There are a few Thanksgiving traditions besides the meal. Many churches hold a special Thanksgiving Day service centered on giving thanks to God. At the meal, many families observe the ritual of going around the table to express what each member is thankful for. Some family members will travel long distances to attend this yearly reunion. During the meal, the family may break the turkey wishbone. Whoever pulls away the larger piece gets a wish granted. The President of the United States also traditionally pardons a live turkey, meaning the turkey will live on a farm without threat of being eaten.
Some will observe the holiday through charity work. Common activities include serving and preparing meals at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, organizing food and clothing drives, and participating in community outreach programs.
Many cities hold large festivals or parades to honor Thanksgiving. One of the largest is New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is currently called Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade begins in the morning and goes down Central Park West to Macy’s Herald Square on 34th street. The parade started in 1924 and over two million people attend the parade annually. The parade ties for second oldest Thanksgiving parade with Detroit’s America’s Thanksgiving Parade behind the Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.
MUSIC ASSOCIATED WITH THANKSGIVING
Thanksgiving is the time of the year that we join together with family and friends and give thanks for our blessings but we should be giving thanks daily to our Savior.
Autumn is the favorite time of the year for many people especially if you live in an area of the United States where you could enjoy all the colors of the trees as they began the process of shedding leaves for the winter season. It also can put you in the frame of that that it will soon be Thanksgiving. Truly, for the Christian, every day should be a time for thanksgiving and praises to God for all He has done for us. Along with this time of year we bring out special songs of thanksgiving that we have been singing for years and years.
Feasts, parades, and football are all well and good, but Thanksgiving Day, as the name itself suggests is a day to be thankful for all that you’ve got: family, friends, food, clothes, shelter, job, and most importantly: life and the celebration can never be complete until a heartfelt thanks is offered. And the power of offering thanks gets multiplied when it is backed by Thanksgiving music and songs that you’ve either grown up to, or have touched you deep. On Thanksgiving, when the whole family is together, make use of the Thanksgiving songs to offer thanks to the Almighty or have them play in low volume at the dinner table: right from the moment one says grace before starting the dinner to the end of the meal. Even if you are to indulge in some fun family moments, music will be one of the best of options. However, don’t worry if there aren’t many good Thanksgivings songs that you know of, I have found some soulful songs that will help you express the thankfulness that you feel but are unable to convey and am sharing them here. See if any of them bring you back to a special memory or if it causes you to think of our loving Heavenly Father and His great mercy, grace and love.
OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS – This is a joyful song based up the poem written in 1844 by Lydia Maria Child. I remember singing it when I was younger, even though we had the Thanksgiving holiday with the immediate family, not at my grandmother’s home. My brother and I were born in a medium sized town in New York State and my Grandmother lived in more of a rural/country environment upstate. When I was younger what it would be like to travel over the river and through the woods instead of going over the river and through the words instead of through neighborhoods with concrete and so many houses and less trees? I always imagined what it was like to travel by horse and carriage or even a sleigh drawn by a horse in the snow. When we did go upstate to visit our grandmother and other family members we traveled by car. It truly was an adventure to go upstate where it was always so peaceful and calm as opposed to where we lived. I always looked forward to the trips upstate. I also remember watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” where near the end Charlie Brown and friends are in his father’s car going to Thanksgiving Dinner at his Grandmothers when they start singing Over the River and Through the Woods. Charlie replies “there’s only one problem, My Grandmother lives in a condominium.”
From the iconic Macy’s Day Parade, to that tender turkey and perfectly seasoned batch of stuffing you’ve been pining over for hours, on over to spending quality time with loved ones; few days are better than Thanksgiving.
Music is a daily integral part of most of our lives, but for some reason it plays an even bigger role come the holiday season. Whether you throw some energetic modern music on to fuel your cooking, or play the classics softly in the background while your family enjoys dinner; Thanksgiving is full of music.
With that said I often wonder why there aren’t hundreds of classic Thanksgiving songs like there are for Christmas. Imagine Mariah Carey or Michael Buble releasing Thanksgiving/food themed albums come turkey day? It’d be phenomenally great and weird but great nonetheless.
Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue – This song is dedicated to those who may have relocated to other states and brave long road trips or airports to head back “home” to spend Thanksgiving with family.
Big Parade by The Lumineers – What’s Thanksgiving without the “Big Parade”? The holiday just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the Macy’s parade and those awesomely large floating cartoon characters…and Santa Claus.
Thank You by Jay Z – Mr. Carter eloquently says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, you’re far too kind” on this aptly titled song. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll be sure to rap this at the dinner table when I ask someone to pass the salt.
Comin’ Home Baby by Mel Torme – The first non-contemporary song on our “Songs for Thanksgiving” playlist was released in 1962 and similarly to Motley Crue’s song, encapsulates that feeling of rushing home to be with loved ones.
I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful for by Bing Crosby – Bing says he doesn’t have the biggest yard or the fanciest things but he still has plenty to be thankful for. In the hustle and bustle of our lives we sometimes lose sight of how much we do have. It’s always good to take a step back and acknowledge that we have a lot to be thankful for.
Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp – Turkey, stuffing and…mashed potatoes! Enough said.
Baby, it’s Cold Outside by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan – We continue in a string of more classic music from yesteryear with this classic holiday song. There’s a nip in the air by Thanksgiving assuredly, but we also all know that once that last slice of apple pie gets eaten, we set our sights on the Christmas and Hanukkah and this song perfectly captures the feeling of that season.
Stuffy Turkey by Thelonius Monk – This all instrumental track is a great song to play quietly in the background as your carve your…stuffy turkeys.
Thanksgiving Theme by Vince Guaraldi Trio – This lesser known song from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving/A Charlie Brown Christmas is another delightful accompaniment to your Thanksgiving festivities.
Wing$ by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – While this song is a celebration of Macklemore’s obsession with the Michael Jordan Nike shoe, I figured it’d be better to dedicate “Wing$” to the millions of turkey wings that will be eaten on Thanksgiving.
Eat It by Weird Al Yankovic – No Thanksgiving playlist could be complete without including one of the most iconic food songs of all time. After I struggle through my second serving of food and peer painfully at scrumptious desserts, I’ll take a page out of Weird Al’s book and say to myself, “Don’t you tell me you’re full, just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it.” (Even if you are unfamiliar with the words, the tune is familiar; it is done to Michael Jackson’s Beat It).
I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons – For those who are surrounded by the amazing smells of pies, turkey, stuffing and other treats as they’re being prepared all day, Mumford’s “I Will Wait” is a perfect mantra to repeat. “I will wait…and not eat all the pumpkin pie before my guests come over.
Thank You by Dido – While most remember parts of this song from the sample Eminem pulled from it for “Stan” in 2000, this beautiful song is a great track to throw on towards the latter part of your night.
The Thanksgiving Song by Adam Sandler – It is quite surprising that one of the best known and flat out most iconic Thanksgiving songs come from a comedian and not even a musician. We’re definitely saving the best for last here as Sandler’s tune is both hilarious and resoundingly true as exemplified by this complex lyric: “Turkey lurkey doo and Turkey lurkey dap I eat that turkey Then I take a nap”.