If anyone is reading this, chances are you are still sleepily digesting the remains of Thanksgiving dinner*—or perhaps you are in line waiting for stores to open their doors this evening… In any event, Thanksgiving, one of the major national holidays, is upon us once again. Based on travel statistics this holiday sees more people on the go than any other. Going where? Why, home, of course!! Maybe it’s just me (and I don’t think it is) but people seek out the face-to-face comforts of home and family—and friends–even in this seemingly always-connected world. Don’t believe me? Try to find a seat on an airplane or train in the days leading up to the fourth Thursday in November.
This holiday certainly has roots in America’s agricultural past, as farmers celebrated the conclusion of the harvest; it also draws on religious and cultural traditions evident in America’s early years. I’m not going to get into the whole Plymouth story here and whether or not it directly relates to our current observance. The fact is that in time local observances became state-sanctioned, with appropriate proclamations from governors and other officials joining the many sermons issued from the pulpit; and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday.
People have celebrated Thanksgiving in various ways over the years; some solemn, some humorous. Objects in the CHS collection certainly reflect this variety of themes, from Governor Matthew Griswold’s 1785 proclamation calling for a day of thanksgiving and prayer to postcards depicting turkeys driving an automobile (ostensibly away from the scene of the dinner?). To those who lament the ever-earlier opening of retail businesses on Thanksgiving, consider the lavish Thanksgiving Day shopping-theater experience advertized in an 1879 broadside! Maybe there is nothing new under the sun.
So enjoy this special food-centric holiday with your family and friends, and remember, the leftovers are often the best part!
*It remains a popular myth that the amino acid tryptophan found in poultry and many other foods is the cause for such after dinner dozing. A more likely explanation is that increased blood flow to the digestive system following a typical carb-heavy Thanksgiving dinner, combined with a slightly increased production of serotonin, prompts the feeling of sleepiness.