Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Change in Thanksgiving toward the end of the 19th Century.

Here's an excerpt from The Connecticut Magazine ©1896 from a story titled In Satan's Kitchen. This is toward the end of the 19th Century and the tidbit shows the change from the Traditional New England Thanksgiving celebration which was a day of fasting, prayers and sermons then followed with a meal.

"Thursday of that week came the time-honored festival of Thanksgiving, when, according to New England custom, Jane Maria cooked up " vittles " of certain sorts enough to last until the middle of March. The preparations began Tuesday night. A basket of apples was brought from the cellar, and Margaret was invited to join the " paring bee," which consisted of Aunt Jane, Uncle Reuben and herself, but the hapless girl cut her fingers, which bled so that she was unable to render much assistance, and, after a vigorous scolding for her carelessness, she was told she could go to bed, " kas yer aint no count here." Margaret gladly availed herself of the privilege, although it was early evening, and she wept far into the night, while down stairs the paring, halving, and quartering went on until an enormous chopping bowl, the proportions of which would astonish the housewives of to-day, was filled to its brim with meat which had been "biled " during the day, and with the apples pared during the night in preparation of the "mince-meat," which was to make the pies that were to last till the "middle of March."

Long before daybreak the next morning Margaret was wakened by the vigorous strokes of the chopping-knife, which announced the continuance of the active preparations for the occasion which, as it seemed to her, must awaken anything but sentiments of thanksgiving. Later, she was invited to lend a hand in the chopping while the pumpkin was prepared for more and other pies, all of which caused Margaret to wonder if their diet was to consist of pies until the middle of March. Jane Maria declared that Margaret's chopping " don't mount to no morn'n a baby's." But Margaret's arms, all unused to such labor, ached keenly, and by nightfall she was too tired to stand.
She had yet to learn, however, that " Thanksgiving" preparations were only just begun. As the darkness came on Uncle Reuben came hurrying in after his lantern. A big boiler of water was put to heat on the stove, and soon Margaret heard outside the shrieks and yells of the poor victims who die for humanity on "Thanksgiving Day." Uncle Reuben's later appearance with the headless fowls, which he threw upon the table to await the scalding and picking process, was more than Margaret could stand, and in the midst of it all she fainted and sank to the floor. She was promptly treated to a vigorous dash of cold water and packed off to bed by her irate aunt as soon as she " cum to." Margaret was on the point of giving up eating if it must be done at such a sacrifice of life as she had witnessed on two occasions.

What a contrast this to the quiet and happy celebration of " Thanksgiving" by the colony of New Englanders living in Oakland, gotten together to keep alive the remembrances of youth and home, and to perpetuate the time-honored day,— occasions when the abundance, variety, and freshness of Pacific coast fruits vied for prominence with the songs of New England. Margaret remembered one of these songs in particular."

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