thanksgiving nostalgia

Thanksgiving Nostalgia | Giving Thanks Then vs. Now

In November 21, 2019

Holiday season is upon us! Now that we have gotten past Halloween, family and friends around the world begin to gather to celebrate a variety of wonderful holidays.. For many, the holiday season conjures memories of time spent together celebrating and remembering previous gatherings. While there are numerous religious and cultural holidays that fall during the winter months before the new year, Thanksgiving is one that is typically celebrated by most Americans. If you’re looking for a bit of Thanksgiving nostalgia, we’ve got you covered. We thought it’d be fun to look back at Thanksgiving traditions and see how the holiday has evolved over time.

Thanksgiving Nostalgia – Looking Back on Tradition

Thanksgiving was officially declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln. Since then, the traditions surrounding the holiday have been ever-evolving. You might be intrigued to learn that some Thanksgiving traditions have been around longer than you realized, and there may even be some details about the holiday you didn’t even know were a thing!

thanksgiving tradition
From fixin’s to football, travel and advertising, Thanksgiving tradition is ingrained in American culture.
  • Turkey day football – For sports fans, Thanksgiving can be synonymous with football games. Did you know that the very first intercollegiate football game to be held on Thanksgiving took place in 1876? It wasn’t until 1934 that the NFL put on its first Thanksgiving day game.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Macy’s Department Store was founded in October of 1858. Whether you’ve shopped there or not, it’s unlikely you haven’t heard of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Macy’s inaugural parade was held all the way back in 1924! Since then, it’s become a must-see event. 
  • The turkey – Details are a bit fuzzy on the exact date that turkey took over as the main course for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s likely turkeys weren’t on the menu at the first Thanksgiving feast. The detailed journaling of colonists of the time did not mention turkey – so when did it become tradition? There is a theory that when William Bradford’s journals were reprinted in 1856, his mention of hunting wild turkeys during the Autumn of their settlement resonated with the public. 
  • The fixin’s – Sides like cranberry sauce were definitely not present at the first Thanksgiving. In fact, cranberries weren’t a staple in American agriculture until the 19th century. While the fruit was mentioned as early as the late 1600’s, cranberry sauce wasn’t heavily marketed to consumers until 1912. And what about potatoes and yams? Potatoes were an import item and their arrival to the United States didn’t happen until the late 1700’s. Even more surprising may be the arrival of candied yams and yam casserole. Marshmallows were invented in the 1800’s, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that culinary geniuses (okay…that may be up for debate!) decided to combine yams or sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Pumpkin pie was also not a thing until much later – the pilgrims didn’t have supplies like butter or flour and sugar to make this delectable treat.
  • Green Bean Casserole – We thought this iconic dish deserved its own section. Don’t deny it, Thanksgiving this year wouldn’t be the same without a hefty serving of this side. Not surprisingly, this dish was literally invented by none other than the soup brand Campbell’s. The 50’s fortunately or unfortunately brought us an era of casserole, and this is one of the best known dishes from that era. 
  • Advertising – You may not realize it, but much Thanksgiving nostalgia is brought about by consumer culture and advertising. It’s no surprise that good marketing is meant to sway the public. Sometimes attaching a product to a special event or activity is the best way to ensure the product remains popular. Print ads with graphic art became popular in the 1920’s. During this time, things like turkeys and cranberry sauce were heavily advertised, ingraining them in the American mindset as a cultural must for Thanksgiving dinner. 
  • Travel – The overall purpose of Thanksgiving is to…well…give thanks! It inspires people to connect with friends and family, remember the good times and reflect on what they’re thankful for. Hundreds of years ago, most families were local to each other in settlements and towns across America. Now, however, it’s more common for families to live hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart. In 2018, nearly 51 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles or more to visit loved ones for Thanksgiving. Whether it’s a quick road trip or a flight across the country, the holidays and family travel tend to go hand in hand. 

No matter what your belief, Thanksgiving tends to be a pretty big deal. Knowing the history behind the holiday is a great way to really appreciate what it’s all about. If you plan to travel this holiday season, we want you to stay safe. It’s one of the busiest times of year when it comes to commercial flights. Remember, if you’re traveling overseas you’ll need a passport. You still have time to apply, but you’ll need a certified copy of your birth certificate to apply. If you’re traveling domestically, you’ll be fine with your driver’s license, at least for now until the Real ID is implemented nationwide. We hope you have a warm and memorable Thanksgiving this year! 

Leave A Comment