This is traditionally one of the easier weeks to write a column due to the inseparable link between agriculture and the Thanksgiving holiday. While this year was certainly a challenge for farmers in Northwest Ohio and across the US for many reasons, there are reasons aplenty to be thankful this time of year. As I use this time of the year to do some reflecting, I am thankful the opportunity to live, work in, and serve a great agricultural community, in what I consider a great career as a county Extension educator.
The modern Thanksgiving celebration in the United States originated with Lammas, a British celebration of an abundant wheat crop. On this day, farmers attended the Loaf Mass and brought loaves of bread as a token of thanks.
Early explorers to the New World quickly acquired a taste for turkey and took birds back to Europe. By the 1500s, turkeys were being raised domestically in Italy, France and England. When the Pilgrims and other settlers arrived in America, they were already familiar with raising and eating turkey and naturally included it as part of their Thanksgiving feast.
The first recorded observance of Thanksgiving in America was a religious occasion that did not include the feast now associated with the holiday. On December 4, 1619, a small group of English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia. In accordance with their charter, the group observed this day by giving thanks to God.
Two years later, the residents of Plymouth rejoiced in an abundant crop and Governor William Bradford proclaimed a three day harvest festival. The colonists and about 90 Indians enjoyed an enormous feast which included ducks, geese, turkey, fish, corn bread and vegetables. It is this particular feast that is usually referred to as the First Thanksgiving.
In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. Abraham Lincoln’s successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year, and Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one.
Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with a live turkey and two dressed turkeys in celebration of Thanksgiving. The annual presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the President has become a traditional holiday ritual in the nation’s capital, signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season and providing the President an opportunity to reflect publicly on the meaning of the Thanksgiving season. After the ceremony, the live bird gets “pardoned” and retires to Disneyland to live out the rest of its years. Not a bad way to go!
This Saturday, when the Buckeye football team takes on TTUN, hopefully there will be no “pardoning” of the wolverines. I’ll wrap up this week with a quote from Anton Chekhov: “Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” Have a great week and a Happy Thanksgiving.
December 19 – OSU Extension Open House