A brief history of Thanksgiving

Happly Thanksgiving! It’s the one day of the year when we do what we should everyday. Yes, I mean give thanks. But did you ever wonder where all our Turkey Day traditions come from? Me, too. Here are a few dates, facts and tidbits for you to read while you stuff your turkey and your face:

1621 — After finding The Mayflower (a the local restaurant) closed, local Pilgrims are relieved to find a really good local Indian restaurant open. The starving Pilgrims enjoy a hearty meal of wild game, turkey, corn, fish heads and cranberry sauce from a can. Stuffed, Pilgrims declare the day a day of thanks.

1621 (later that afternoon) — First reported case of tryptophan poisoning occurs.  Pilgrims found facedown asleep in their plates.

1784 — In a letter to his daughter, Ben “I don’t have sense to come in out of an electrical storm” Franklin proclaims that the Thanksgiving turkey was “as wiry and tough as an eagle.” Then he rambles on that the eagle on the seal looks like a turkey. A myth was born.

1846 — Donner Party heads out on trip to see Grandma on Thanksgiving. Meal didn’t consist of turkey.

1863 — President Abraham Lincoln, while looking online for a new stovepipe hat, proclaims, “We need the day before Black Friday off.” He later went on to proclaim a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwellers in the Heavens.”  The next year it was just shortened to “Thanksgiving” to better fit on calendars.

1890 — First documented case of an obnoxious relative spouting off about politics occurs.  Uncle Billy Bob Smith begins a 20-minute tryrade about President Benjamin Harrison and his ungodly liberal beard. That starts a timeless tradition that lives on even today: The relative who brings a big dish of awkward to the meal.  Later, investigators name alcohol an unindicted co-conspirator.

1897 — Jello-O brand gelatin invented. Dorothy (Dot) McMaster accidentally drops a salad into a cooling dish of gelatin. The Jello-O salad is born.

1920 — The National Football league is formed and Thanksgiving games begin. There are three games: One hosted by the Dallas Cowboys, one by the Dallas Cowboys and one with no fixed opponents — which I hope doesn’t mean fixed like a cat. In 2017, an NFL player takes a knee causing drunk uncle Billy Bob to unplug the TV and go on a rant.

1924 —  Inaugrual Macy’s Day parade kicks off in New York City.  In 1927, Felix the Cat debuted as the first giant balloon in the parade.  In 1932, the parade was broadcast.  Lipsynching singers appeared soon after that.  Santa, however, is real and don’t you ever try to convince me otherwise.

1942 – 1944 — World War 2 causes Macy’s Day parade to be canceled. Balloons were handed over to the government for scrap rubber. By 1945, the world was thankful World War 2 was over.

1956 — Interstate highway construction authorized by the Federal Aid and Highway Act of 1956. No longer will people have to travel over the river and through the woods to go to Grandma’s house.

1973 — A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving debuts. Snoopy gets trapped in a garage door. Kids eat popcorn and toast. Woodstock forced to eat another bird.

1974 — Grandma gets stuck washing dishes by herself. She stews quietly for years.

1980 — Mr. Whiskers the cat jumps on the table and eats the turkey. R.I.P. Mr. Whiskers.

1983 — Chrysler Corporation unveils the minivan. Trips to Grandma’s (who is still washing dishes by herself) house forever changed.

1989 — President George H.W. Bush is the first U.S. President to “pardon the turkey.”  Turkey later accuses President Bush of patting its behind.

2007 — Apple’s Steve Jobs introduces the IPhone. Families cease talking to each other at Thanksgiving and now just look at their phones.

2016 — Some stores open on Thanksgiving Day as Black Friday creeps into Thursday. Thankfulness replaced with raw consumerism.

2016 — Hillary vs. Trump means that millions of Americans sit silently at Thanksgiving dinner in fear, praying nothing is said about the election  — until Uncle Billy Bob yells, “Hold my beer.”

2017 — Grandma buys paper plates and orders Thanksgiving dinner from a restaurant. “To heck if I’m going to be stuck in the kitchen like the little Red Hen.”

2017 — Special Prosecutor Bob Mueller investigates a turkey’s tie to the Russian Government. President Donald Trump immediately pardons it.

2017 — I’m thankful for you and that you just read this column. Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!




About Marshall Ramsey