Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving in History

Thanksgiving in History
Just for the sake of historical factitude (I know. Not a word.), Thanksgiving was not a regular American holiday until Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a holiday for October 3, 1863. Imagine celebrating Thanksgiving before Halloween, but there ya go. So, for the most part, westerners didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Nobody did. Then during the most deadly war the United States has ever known, the nation took a breath as Abraham Lincoln delivered this proclamation:

The Year that is drawing to a close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke the aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversion of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.
Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascription's justly due to Him for such singular deliverance's and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
(Quote from Wikipedia)

A touch more about history. It wasn’t until Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the 3rd Thursday of every November Thanksgiving that Americans celebrated a yearly holiday. His reason for deciding on the 3rd Thursday was a wee bit mercenary. He wanted to kick off the Christmas shopping season. Keep in mind that this decision took place in the midst of the Great Depression. Like now, people were hurting financially and businesses were suffering. President Roosevelt was attempting to ignite the economy. It worked in some ways and there is still the tradition of “Black Friday” (so named because it is hoped to put finances from red into the black) in which Americans kick off the Christmas shopping season.

Now let’s talk about food. Only in modern times has the turkey taken center stage on the Thanksgiving table. Earlier times would see just about any fowl or beast show up for that auspicious meal. Corn, pumpkin and other harvested items would have been on the menu along with braised bear meat, venison or dried beef, but candied sweet potatoes with marshmallow crème and other present day traditional side dishes would have been absent from early Thanksgiving tables. So much for pumpkin cheesecake, too.
                                                 (I'm the bleary-eyed kid on my dad's lap)
In my childhood, my parents tried making alternative Thanksgiving feasts. One of them was a Yankee Pot Roast which was a total disappointment to me. Though my parents tried to convince us that, if the pilgrims could have chosen a meal, beef would have been at the top of their list, my sister and I remained staunch conformists.
There has always been the fun of the family gathering together to share in preparing the food. Sometimes our family was stretched from North Caroline to Pennsylvania to Nebraska, Texas and Washinton. So Thanksgiving could be very exciting when we all gathered from far and near. We sure had a lot to talk about and catch up on, but that was fun, too.
Most families regardless of religion have their own Thanksgiving traditions including mine. After we get the turkey in the oven, we sit around the kitchen table to play board games for some fun while the air fills with the delicious aroma of turkey and pie. Once the turkey is ready along with all the fixings, we sit at the dining table set with the Azalea pattern Nortake china and silver flatware that has been passed down through the family from Grandmother McNeal. We go around the table sharing what each of us is grateful for, and then we say grace and tuck into our grub. I like the idea of the attitude of gratitude. Sometimes life seems overwhelming and not much seems to be going right for us, but it’s a good practice to stand back and have a bit of gratitude for what we do have—even if it’s only one day a year.
Once you’ve had your Thanksgiving dinner and the house quiets down, I hope you’ll consider reading my Christmas short, Gifts From The Afterlife from Victory Tales Press available for just $.99 at all online bookstores.

How dark must it get before Lydia sees the light?
Lydia Sinclair’s life has run off the rails.  She has lost everyone she loves and Christmas has lost its meaning.  As Christmas approaches, Lydia wants to go to sleep and never wake up again.  Perhaps an angel, some ghosts and a childhood sweetheart can convince her that life is worth living again.  Can Lydia let go of what once was, renew her joy in Christmas and find the promise of hope for her future?
 Careful not to injure him with her elbows or knees, Lydia flattened her body against Austin's back. He felt warm and her position felt oddly sensual, even though they both wore several layers of clothes. She glanced over the top of the hill where they perched. The bottom seemed like a very long way down. She felt her nerves jangle at the prospect of flying down that hill. "You better not get me hurt."
"That is the last thing I would ever want to do." He glanced back at her. "Hold on tight now."
Next thing she knew, Austin had used his foot to shove them off the top of the hill. They hurtled down the slope at what felt like a hundred miles an hour. The cold wind bit into her cheeks and snow gathered in her hair. Filled with exhilaration, fear, and joy, Lydia clung to Austin like a monkey to its mama. Both of them let out bursts of laughter as they neared the neighbor's fence at the bottom of the knoll.
"We're not going to make it, Austin. We're going too fast." Lydia's heart beat wildly against her ribs. He promised he wouldn't hurt her. He promised.
"Trust me," he said in a calm voice.
She wanted to trust him, she really did, but the fence seemed too close for him to stop. Then, all of a sudden, Austin turned the sled and both of them rolled off. He quickly turned his body to face her and gathered her up close as they rolled several times until they came to a stop in a bank of snow beside the fence.
She still held on to him and clutched at his jacket for a few moments after they stopped. He peered down at her, his eyes darker than before and his expression changed from giddy to intense. She knew he was going to kiss her before his lips touched hers, and she didn't want to stop him.
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  1. Sarah, lovely traditions in your family. We tried eating out for several years, but this year my sweet husband is preparing a grand feast for our family. Most of our family is gone or spread too far to visit, so it's just our two girls and my husband and me for dinner.

  2. Sarah--three sisters? I am the middle of three. In your photo, I would be the one with the braids--except my hair never was allowed to grow long.
    It's funny how the turkey became THE main food of the meal. The menu that's put together today, is basically the same one put together in the 50s. Yes, we're all conformists!
    But my daddy didn't really like turkey--so one year he decided to barbecue steaks outside, and we'd have baked potatoes, etc. Mother complied, but like you--the rest of us objected. Back to the turkey and dressing from then on.
    And when Daddy was still living, all the family gathered there, and your family sounds like mine. We played "42", a domino game, in case you don't know it. We had table of four going all day and into the evening. When someone tired of playing, that one would call in a substitute and on it went. Men and women played, and a couple of the older grandkids played. But when Daddy died and Mother remarried, she put a stop to our gatherings. One of the saddest days of my life. Such a waste.
    Now, my husband and I are always alone on TD. But we don't mind--we actually kind of like it. Our son and his family live halfway across the country, and her family is huge and close by. So our grandsons have a hoard of cousins to hang out with.
    Our daughter, close by, no children, comes over--this year, Monday--and spends the day.
    On Thanksgiving Day, we'll go see a movei--"Lincoln" this year--how appropriate.
    Your excerpt for your book is so sweet--I know it's a wonderful book. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Caroline, you lucky thing to have a husband who will cook that Thanksgiving feast for you. Wow! Thank you so much for coming by. I really appreciate it.
    all the best to you.

  4. Oh Celia, I really understand how it must have affected you when your mom remarried and called it quits on Thanksgiving dinner for the family. After my mother died, my father remarried and it was never the same again. It seemed colder and foreign. My middle sister and I started our own tradition after that.
    I learned to play dominoes from my elderly neighbors when I lived in Texas. It was so much fun. Dominoes must be a big game for Texans.I also ate my first avacado at the neighbor's in Texas. I didn't like it at first, thought it tasted like mildewed laundry. Over the years though I have come to love avacadoes. I like them instead of bacon in a tomato, lettuce and avacado sandwhich. In fact, I like them in almost everything. ha ha
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting, Celia. You are such a great support.

  5. Great post. Knew the history of it before, but great you did it. LOL about your parents and the pot roast.

  6. Sarah - Enjoyed the post -- thanks! We have a big family and I remember my Dad hurt his back once, trying to put the huge bird into the oven for my mom. My husband's family also used to gather for the holiday, so when he moved to Florida and discovered that he only had enough vacation to go home for Christmas, we decided to do something entirely new for Thanksgiving. We went camping. This will be the first year in 25 that we are not repeating our Thanksgiving camping trip. Our daughter is 7 months pregnant and wouldn't enjoy the trip. So our group of campers will eat on our upper deck in front of the fireplace ... still outside, but with a bathroom nearby. Maybe this will be our new tradition.

  7. Thank you for coming by, Pam. Pop loved that pot roast, but my sister and I were not so happy without our turkey.

  8. Well BonSue, that is definitely a different Thanksgiving. Once we went to the beach for Thanksgiving. It wasn't much fun since my sister and I worked in the kitchen the whole time. Didn't do that again.
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

  9. Sarah,

    I enjoyed the post. Interesting facts. We have turkey with all the trimmings for thanksgiving. We also enjoy other sweet like cheesecake. :)

  10. Sarah, great information about Thanksgiving. Some I knew some I didn't. Family traditions or lack of are fun.

    Your story sounds like a fun holiday read.

  11. The Yankee Pot Roast sounds yummy to me. LOL I'm not a turkey person but we always have it for Thanksgiving. My parents used to have ham and turkey for Thanksgiving. Great post, Sarah! Wish you continued sales of your wonderful books.

  12. Karen, that's the way I like Thanksgiving, too--with the turkey. My nephew makes pumpkin cheese cake and we all love it. It certainly takes pumpkin pie up some notches. LOL
    Thank you so much for coming by to comment.

  13. Paty, thank you for your sweet compliments. I'm so glad you dropped by.

  14. Diane, I do like pot roast, but when I was a kid, I wanted everything the way it was in books and magazines--and other people's homes.
    I love ham for Christmas, but I'm the only one in my family who likes it. What's wrong with my people? LOL
    Thank you so much for your kindness, for coming by and leaving a comment.

  15. Hey Sarah--sweet post. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful family holiday--this year we decided to have TWO--1 with my daughter from LA and one with my son. Since the clan includes a vegetarian, a vegan, 2 gluten-freers, and me, we have a varied menu (although it always seems to include kale-:( )HT everyone! Meredith

  16. Hey Meredith. I never thought of kale as a Thanksgiving dish--probably too healthy. LOL Getting all those different dietary restrictions in a meal seems mighty tough. Gluten free food isn't as hard to make as I once thought. My greatniece's friend is on a gluten free diet and we always made foods she could have when we had parties for the kids. So what's the main course for vegan's? Do you have some type of tofu dish or some exquisite veggie dish? Does the food restriction for vegans include dairy products and eggs?
    Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment, Meredith.


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