Why Thanksgiving Uses the Turkey Every Year



Sarah Kanas, Writer

When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of the story of the pilgrims from the Mayflower and the Native American Indians gathered together at a table on land for the first Thanksgiving Feast. We even think about what we are thankful for every year such as our friends and family. Furthermore, we think about the main banquet of every feast which is the turkey. But why does Thanksgiving use the turkey every year at every meal? Well, we’re about to find out.

A Thanksgiving dinner is a large meal centered around a large turkey. The turkey is served with a variety of the side dishes and the dinner includes a vary form of Traditional Dishes such as mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Some dishes are the ones reflecting regional or cultural heritage and others were dishes in the traditional American version made from the foods native to the New World according to the traditional story. The largest eating event took place in the US where people eat more than any other day of the year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving-dinner).


In the description of Thanksgiving, Americans sit down with families and gorge themselves on the same Thanksgiving menu. The Thanksgiving menu for every year in every decade typically, but not always, includes turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Pilgrims may not have had turkey

They turkey may not have been on the menu at the 1621 celebration; which is the first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims of the Plymouth which was a story written by colonist William Bradford. He noted that wild turkeys existed in the Plymouth while colonist Edward Winslow predicted that turkeys were the best existing account of the harvest. In his book Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Winslow also predicted that the First Thanksgiving had no mention of turkey and the pilgrims would gather a “wild fowl” for their meals such as ducks or geese.

Why do we chow down on turkey?

The reason we eat turkey is because the presidents declared Thanksgiving during their presidencies and there were many early celebrations that included turkey. Turkey also gained traction as the main Thanksgiving meal for Americans and President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday in 1863. The birds were large enough to feed a table full of hungry family members and they didn’t serve much of a utilitarian purpose as did the chickens that lay eggs and the cows that made milk. In the meantime, turkey was not common for any other holiday and it is an unsuitable choice for any special occasion; yet the publication of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens helped force along the cause as a holiday delicacy.

No Cranberry Sauce

For every meal on Thanksgiving and other occasions, cranberry sauce requires sugar and sugar had a rare luxury at the time of the first Thanksgiving. Sadly, it was not invented until the year of 1663 and there was a lot of accompanied meat. There was a lot of accompanied meat; yet the pilgrims did not feast on cranberry sauce.

Plenty of Venison

In the time of the MayFlower, the pilgrims and Wampanoag enjoyed deer as part of the feasting of the first Thanksgiving. The first feast arrived at the celebration as a gift from Wampanoag known as king Massasoit and other meats included fish and shellfish.

Pumpkin Pie didn’t Cap Off Dinner

The common dessert, known as pumpkin pie didn’t make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving and the pilgrims lacked butter and flour; which may be two of the main ingredients. However, the pumpkins were served after being baked in the coals of fire or stewed in a boiling bowel. Pumpkin pie became the popular dish on the 17th century American-tables and has shown up as early as the 1623 celebration (http://mentalfloss.com/article/20218/why-we-eat-what-we-eat-thanksgiving).