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Where did the Thanksgiving Turkey Tradition Start?

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It is almost time for that November holiday where families and friends come together and celebrate with tons of food and great times. Yes, it is almost Thanksgiving! It is almost time for travel, cooking, parades, football and other traditions. The one tradition that most people do not really consider is the turkey. Turkey was not served at the very first Thanksgivings. Where did this tradition start and why is it that most families feel they must have a Thanksgiving turkey on Thanksgiving Day?

The very first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 and lasted for three days. It was a celebration by the Pilgrims of the Plymouth colony to thank God for allowing them to make it through their first winter in the new world. There were 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans present at this glorious feast. It consisted of fish, shellfish, berries, fruit, pumpkin, duck, beans and corn. It is thought by historians that turkey was also a main course, but no one knows for sure.

One theory of how the Thanksgiving turkey became so popular and traditional starts with the 16th century’s Queen Elizabeth. The story states that she was eating a roast goose during a festival of harvest when she learned that the Spanish Armada had been sank while en route to attack England. The Queen was so pleased that she ate another goose in celebration. Because of this, geese became the main course of meat at harvest festivals. After the Pilgrims made their voyage across the ocean to America, they continued the tradition with turkey instead because there were more turkeys than geese.

Although there are only theories as to how the Thanksgiving turkey tradition came about, it is known that the wild turkey did first come from Mexico and North America. After being discovered here, it was taken to England around the time of Queen Elizabeth. Because the turkey meat was so delicious, and of great quality, the English began raising turkeys.

The time that the Thanksgiving turkey tradition started, however, can be pinpointed. A pilgrim, back in the 16th century, sent a letter home to England describing how four men went out on a hunt and came back with geese, turkeys and ducks. This letter was lost during the Revolutionary War, but was unearthed in 1854. Since the re-discovery of this letter, the Thanksgiving turkey has been a traditional centerpiece in most homes on Thanksgiving Day.

Each different person or family may have their own reasons for eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day. No matter the reason, turkey has been a favorite for many years. It was seen as such an icon for America and the Thanksgiving holiday that Ben Franklin had even suggested it be the symbol of America instead of the bald eagle.



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