one bird's loss is another bird's gain
One bird’s loss is another bird’s gain
By Sally Burnham
The turkey has been a long-standing tradition for the Thanksgiving table. But does it really date back to 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest by sharing a three-day meal with the Wampanoag Indians? I'm sure there must have been a few wild turkeys on their tables.
Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey to be noble and lobbied to have it become our national bird.
In January 1784, a year and a half after the Great Seal was adopted by Congress with the bald eagle as its centerpiece, Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter and shared some thoughts about this new symbol of America:
"For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character....I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as a bald eagle, but looks more like a turkey. For the truth the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. ...He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on."
For centuries people have been setting aside a day to give thanks. Farmers gathered to celebrate their harvests. Some believed spirits lived in the plants, and they came to thank the good spirits and scare away the evil ones.
It was President Abraham Lincoln who declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving and made it a national holiday in 1863. In his proclamation he said:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. …I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”