Of all our national holidays, none are more universally observed than Thanksgiving Day, which is now first proclaimed by the President, and then by the Governor of each State. Tradition has given us the following story of the first real Thanksgiving:
The "Pilgrim Fathers" were in the habit of proclaiming a fast day for almost everything that befell them, either good luck or bad, until a sensible old farmer (unfortunately tradition has not given us his name) rose up in the congregation, after another fast day had been proclaimed, and plainly told the people that he believed God was tired of their long, sorry-looking faces, their constant complainings, and their numerous fast days. He had blessed their labors in every way with success. "The fields," said he, "are filled with ripened grain; the seas and rivers are full of fish. In the forests are an abundance of game, and he has made the air sweet, the climate healthful, and is permitting us the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and I therefore propose, instead of a day of fasting, the Governor shall proclaim a day of thanksgiving and feasting." Which sensible suggestion was unanimously adopted, and ever since a day of thanksgiving has been annually proclaimed, at least in a part of the States.
The old-fashioned custom was for the sons and daughters, with their families, to assemble at the old home, and thus have an annual reunion, and many have been the happy days spent in this way.
At grandfather's, for at least a week before the important day, all was activity and bustle. Sacks of the best wheat were sent to mill to be ground into flour. Great rounds of beef, with apples, raisins and spices were chopped into mince meat. Cart loads of yellow pumpkins, with an abundance of milk, butter and eggs, were made into pies. Turkeys, chickens and geese were made ready for roasting. Immense plum-puddings were baked in large earthen pots, besides the baking of pound cake, fruit cake and jelly cake, from morning till night.
The Thanksgiving dinner, after all this preparation, was indeed a grand affair, with grandfather at one end, and grandmother at the other end of the table, the children and grandchildren between, wondering if grandfather will ever get done carving the turkey. You would little think, as you see this turkey turned upside down, stuffed with that which he could not digest, that a few days before he had been the proud, strutting hero of the barnyard.
After dinner the table is cleared away, the old folks gather around the old-fashioned open fireplace, which is filled with hickory logs, that crackle and sparkle as though they were trying to add their mirth to the occasion; and the children well-nigh upset the chairs with such games as "Blind man's Buff," "Who's Got the Button?" "Catching the Apple," "Leap Frog," "Catcher," etc., and so the day ended joyously.
Thanksgiving Day in the Olden Time
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen