What Americans THINK THEY KNOW about the history of Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily the TRUTH.
This may or may not come as a surprise to you, and not that it really matters, but what I want to point out here is that often traditions that relate to certain events in the past bear little resemblance to those events – and it’s okay.
So, as much as we like to stick to traditional way of doing things, and protest against changing anything for the sake of TRADITION – the most important criteria for keeping a tradition should be – how well those traditions are serving us TODAY, knowing what we know, being who we are RIGHT NOW.
”The most important criteria for keeping or changing a tradition should be – how well those traditions are serving us TODAY, knowing what we know, being who we are RIGHT NOW.
So, about Thanksgiving.
It is generally believed that in 1621, the Pilgrims invited Wampanoag Indians to a feast in Plymouth Colony to celebrate their first harvest, and a good time, with turkey sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, was had by all.
Well, maybe it happened like that, but from what we know today, probably not.
FACT: Thanksgiving as we know it was created by ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ author — not the Pilgrims
Sarah Josepha Hale – does that name mean anything to you?
You may not have heard of her, but she is the woman who created Thanksgiving as we know it.
Let me repeat that because this may come as a surprise to you, because it’s a little known fact—without Sarah Jessica Hale there would be no Thanksgiving as we know it.
‘Without Sarah Josepha Hale—later known as “the Mother of Thanksgiving”—there would be no turkey on the table, no gravy, no cranberry sauce, and no pumpkin pie.
Most importantly, there would be NO THANKSGIVING as a national holiday.
She was the one who conceived the idea, and then shaped the whole tradition – complete with putting together the menu items and the recipes, that are now familiar to everyone across North America and beyond.
Yes, festive thanksgiving dinners were celebrated around the country, but not necessarily on the same day and not necessarily with the same food, and they were not given in the celebration of the 1621 feast.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale, an author, poet and magazine editor, a feminist, and an influential woman of her time (and the author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) who conceived the idea of the thanksgiving celebration and making it into a national holiday.
She had a VISION, and she CONSISTENTLY and TIRELESSLY WORKED toward fulfillment of that vision – she wrote letters and articles, spoke to people, sent petitions to politicians and presidents – until they listened.
She wrote not one, not two letters – I don’t know how many, but probably dozens, or even hundreds. She did that not for a week or a month – but over the period of many years.
In fact, for forty years, she lobbied any and all politicians she could, ultimately appealing to President Lincoln himself.
She kept doing it, even though probably at the beginning nobody listened to her. But she had not stopped … UNTIL IT WORKED.
Finally, in the summer of 1863, on the heels of the decisive battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, President Lincoln granted her wish declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday.
And Sarah Josepha Hale knew exactly how this holiday celebration should look like.
In her 1823 novel ‘Northwood; or, a Tale of New England’, Sarah Josepha Hale devoted an entire chapter to one such dinner, describing it in much detail, complete with roast turkey, gravy, and pumpkin pie.
As a result of her commitment, her passion, her belief, she single-handedly accomplished a huge goal influencing the lives of millions. She created one of the biggest holiday traditions – Thanksgiving as we know it – which really bore little resemblance to the original celebration.
Ironically, apart from the food that is served during this holiday, today’s Thanksgiving bears little resemblance to Sarah Josepha Hale’s vision, either. The rather solemn celebration, that was about giving thanks, helping the poor and feeding the homeless, turned into a thanksgiving extravaganza, complete with the Macy’s Day Parade, football games galore, and enough food to sink a ship.
What Was Done – Can be Un-Done
Unfortunately, what Sarah Josepha Hale had created with good intentions is hurtful it is for the animals and for people. As a result of her work, commitment, and passion millions of animals are bread every year for the sole purpose of being killed, decapitated and defeathered, baked and served as a centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table – while people gather around to celebrate and give thanks.
Unfortunately, that’s her legacy.
Quite depressing, really. Tragic, even.
So why do I even talk about it?
Because what she did – can be undone.
Today, we can create NEW TRADITIONS.
Traditions that are just and COMPASSIONATE, truly HUMANE and truly JOYFUL.
Traditions that don’t require hurting anyone.
Today, it’s time for new Thanksgiving traditions.
Traditions that are about giving thanks, being generous and compassionate towards all beings on this planet.
If you think that’s impossible, that it will be an affront to the original Thanksgiving celebration that took place in 1621 – think again.
The way we celebrate this holiday has very little to do with what the original celebration looked like, and everything to do with a vision of one influential woman, whom we know little about today.
It’s okay to shape new traditions. It’s okay to change traditions. Sarah Josepha Hale taught us how.
That’s the positive part of her legacy.
We can follow in her footsteps – with DETERMINATION, COMMITMENT, and PASSION — to re-invent the Thanksgiving tradition, as well as other traditions around the globe.
Let’s do it – like we mean it.
If not now, then when?
If not us, then who?
Let’s start shaping new traditions TODAY,
With great love, passion, and compassion,
PS. Two ideas for traditions that I have — which I didn’t come up with, but I think they deserve more attention, promotion – marketing even! on a big scale– the way Sarah Josepha Hale did it, which I’m going to specifically discuss really soon are: the National Turkey PARDON tradition, as well Thanksgiving Pumpkin tradition as a new centerpiece for the festive thanksgiving table and meal. Stay tuned!
PPS. Join me on this upcoming challenge – ‘Re-Imagine the World as Vegan’ Challenge for Vegan Warriors, Revolutionaries, Bloggers, Writers and everybody else who wants to start making a bigger difference for the animals – both human and non-human ;-). Sign up here: