Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Tidbits

Okay so a week from now, you'll be sitting down with your family and friends and enjoying the Thanksgiving meal. This year, my husband and I will be doing something a little bit different. (I'll write next week and let you know.) However, for today's post I've gathered some tidbits that your historical characters might be able to take advantage of especially with an eye for decorating for the holiday:

A Thanksgiving Exercise.
A table decorated with branches of pine, spruce or other evergreens, on which are arranged vegetables, baskets of fruit, a few ears of corn, nuts, and perhaps clusters of red berries will add to the attractiveness of the room. As a centerpiece for the table let :i pumpkin be placed against the green branches, and around it the vegetables may be grouped. These the pupils will eujoy bringing, and at the close of the session, the fruit and vegetables may be sent by the children to the poor.
On the blackboard may be drawn a few suggestive decorations, a spray of autumn leaves, clusters of grapes, some wheatstalks, branches of nut trees, as well as groups of fruit and of vegetables.
Thanksgiving is a day set apart by government for acknowledging the mercies and the bounties we have received from God.
While we are joyous In meeting around our well-tilled tables, let us not think our day well-spent until we have given from our store to bring cheer to some less fortunate neighbor.
Source: Popular Education ©1897

THE feasting and good cheer now so general on Thanksgiving day would have shocked the sturdy old Puritan with whom the observance of the day originated. As first kept, the festival was essentially religious, and few frivolities would have been tolerated that were not allowable on the Sabbath.
When we remember the stern, uncompromising religion of those early New England Sabbaths, we can form a very fair opinion of the difference between their Thanksgiving day and our own.
Yet the real spirit of the day—to give thanks—was more in evidence than it is in our own time. It is questionable, amid the stir and feasting and pleasant excitement incidental to this festival as now kept, if we do not forget, or remember only dimly, the reason for all this jollity and good cheer.
The character of the day has changed so gradually that it is only by looking backward we can realize what it meant in its beginning.
Truly, when on February 22, 1631, the good ship hove in sight, laden with provisions for the brave, starving Massachusetts colony, every soul must have thrilled with the rapture of praise and Thanksgiving. Our need is never so desperate as was theirs, and were we to strive our utmost we could not enumerate all the mercies for which we should offer thanks. Dangers are often averted we do not even dream of, and blessings are showered upon us daily, which we except merely as our just dues.
The truest gratitude is but shown, not alone in feasting our dear ones, but in doing all we can to make those less fortunate realize that Thanksgiving is for them as well. Even if our feast is necessarily less elaborate, let us share it with those who might otherwise go without.
Thanksgiving is the day of the year for family re-union, and as such should be respected. No one should call on that day, formally or informally, unless by special invitation. If there are many children in the gathering, one should plan to make their day so enjoyable it will long be remembered. Special arrangements should be made for their comfort and diversion, and this not alone for their benefit, but incidentally for their elders as well.
If a large hall or room can be given over to the little ones' use, not only will their enjoyment be heightened, but it will be a rest and relief to their parents as well. A prettily laid table, made bright with rich colored chrysanthemums, should be prepared for them, and everything possible should be put within reach, to make the task of waiting on them less wearisome. The
carving for them should all be done at a side table, or even in the kitchen. If one or two children of a larger growth wish to preside at the table so much the better. Provide an abundance of nuts, apples, oranges and wholesome confectionery.
The house, and particularly the diningroom, should be suitably decorated for Thanksgiving. Autumn leaves, chrysanthemums, asters, palms, ferns, and other growing plants, may all be effectively utilized for their purpose. Dried grasses and grains also make handsome decorations. Certainly, if the festival is to be celebrated, an air of festivity should pervade the home. Open fires give an appearance of comfort and good cheer nothing else can so well impart. Let them glow in ruddy splendor wherever possible on Thanksgiving Day.
As much of the cooking should be done in advance as circumstances will permit. Mince meat and plum pudding are better for being made at least a week or two before they are used. Never try a new recipe for either of these thanksgiving dishes, without first testing it in smaller proportions.
If the dinner is to be served before evening, a prettier effect is secured by shutting out the daylight, and illuminating with the soft mellow light of candles.
When old people are to be present make the festival savor of their own early days as much as possible, without conflicting with those who prefer more modern ideas. Years ago it was the custom to load the table with all sorts of dainties, but the European fashion of serving a dinner in courses is infinitely more pleasing and always to be preferred. With the Thanksgiving dinner, however, it is well to strike a happy medium between the old and the newer forms. The vegetables may all be placed on the table with the turkey and chicken pie, and cranberry sauce or jelly, pickles, catsup, celery and apple sauce, may all be served with the roast turkey, in deference to the dear old-fashioned guests who may be there. By all means include Thanksgiving pudding, pumpkin pie, and a rich old-fashioned loaf cake in the menu.
Serve a sherbet between the turkey and chicken pie to restore freshness to the palate, and let the salad course and dessert be served as usual. Coffee may be passed at the table, but is generally preferred in the parlor. The Thanksgiving dinner is usually served with more regard to old fashioned comfort than to strict ceremony, but this of course applies only to the family gathering, where children and parents and grandparents, with aunts uncles and cousins, are assembled together, and not to the ordinary formal dinner.
—Mary Foster Snider.
Source: Table Talk ©1899

Note.—Decorate the school room in the most appropriate way possible. Make free use of the national colors. Portraits of noted American statesmen, generals and authors on the walls, tastefully enwreathed with the colors red, white and blue, make a pretty effect and teach impressive lessons in patriotism. Decorations of pretty autumn leaves and flowers and grains are appropriate, and help greatly to beautify the room. Baskets and dishes of vegetables and fruit arranged on a flower stand in the front of the room or on the platform, heighten the interest of the exercises.
Source: Southwestern School Journal ©1898

Ladies and Gentlemen.—In proposing the toast to "Our National Thanksgiving Day," I have been requested to explain for the benefit of several of our English friends who delight us with their presence to-night, some of the emblems amongst our decorations. The pumpkin is one of the great national emblems of America, particularly of our American Thanksgiving Day. There is nothing more dear to our homes, especially in New England, than the pumpkin and the pumpkin pie. This colossal pumpkin was sent by the United Service Club of New York, in which State it was grown, to our esteemed Ambassador, in recognition of the great services he has rendered to his country, and his Excellency has placed it at our disposal to-night that we may enjoy it with him. But, unfortunately, he is not with us.
You will notice that I have introduced, as a part of my design on the cover of the little souvenir volume, un-husked ears of Indian corn treated somewhat after the manner of a flcur-de-lys. Corn is one of the Thanksgiving emblems which we took from the Indians. You who know Longfellow's beautiful lines in "Hiawatha" know that the Indians held their Thanksgiving feasts after the gathering of the corn. It was an emblem of peace and plenty.
The turkey is another emblem which denotes peace and thanksgiving, and by the suggestion of Colonel Taylor, our honorary treasurer, the turkey has been represented in his true light in one of the illustrations contained in the souvenir. This and the other original illustrations were executed by Miss Florence K. Upton, who graces this festival by her presence. The turkey for the moment takes the place of the American Eagle. The proud bird of liberty must get off the earth on Thanksgiving Day. I ought also to acknowledge the charming verses written specially for this occasion by Mrs. Bertha Upton, the talented mother of the talented young artist.
The origin of Thanksgiving Day is known to all Americans, and you have heard something of it to-night from our friend, Mr. B. F. Stevens, who aided me greatly in the preparation of the souvenir. Thanksgiving Day was first observed by our Pilgrim Fathers. Those brave New England pioneers, together with the early Virginian settlers and William Penn's followers laid the foundation of our nation. They faced terrible hardships whilst battling manfully against fierce nature in a savage wilderness, and they created the national spirit of the American—a spirit of self-reliance, enterprise and patriotism, which enabled them to meet emergencies as they arose—a spirit which is alive to-day in our people, and which I hope and believe will ever distinguish them. I have endeavored in this little volume to remind you of some of the things for which we ought to be thankful.
Source: Thanksgiving Day ©1896

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