The Day Before Thanksgiving - 1890
Women Prepare the Turkey and Other Foods in the Kitchen Beginning the Day Before Thanksgiving. GGA Image ID # 1458be180d
ON the morning of Thursday next, as the general custom of late years has been, all those heedful of the various proclamations of the civil authority will assemble at their respective places of worship, and, like old Governor Bradford, "thank God with all their hearts for the good world and the good things in it."
May they be fewer than usual this year who are compelled to agree with a former Mayor of New York in the days of the war, who issued his proclamation according to form to such as might feel thankful, adding that he himself could see little to be thankful for in the occurrences of the year just past!
As a wise man said, "Things might always be worse than they are, and those who cannot think of anything else have this for their consolation." Neither custom nor proclamations, however, limit the business of the day to the returning of thanks for blessings received. "Is it not strange, when we do justly consider it," is the sage remark of an old divine, "that man who eateth and drinketh four times daily, and has the necessity for worship forever within him, shall conjoin the festival of the belly and the festival of praise?"
The day, as every well-regulated housewife knows, does "conjoin the festival of the belly with the festival of praise," and there is urgent need that before the day arrives proper provision shall be made for the more carnal part of the celebration.
Our artist has recognized this, else why should so grave a consultation be held over the turkeys which are to be roasted on the morrow. Why does the young woman wrinkle her fair brows over the cookbook? Is she considering how the stuffing—or the filling, as our Philadelphia friends denominate the mixture—shall be proportioned? Or is she in a quandary over the vague directions which it is the delightful fashion of cookbooks to give—a little sage, a little onion, a little parsley, and a little something else?
Whatever the council determines upon, it is to be hoped that just a little green pepper will be added to the dressing, and a little of everything else too which is good and happens to be handy.
Not more than forty years ago Thanksgiving proclamations were only issued by the Governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut, but now what used to be called south of the Potomac the "New England Christmas" is celebrated in the length and breadth of the land, though the day has lost in a great measure its early significance.
In the early colonial days the Puritans of New England abolished Christmas as a relic of popery and prelacy, which they held in nearly equal detestation. Laws were passed to punish the observance of Christmas Day.
Someday, however, was needed to replace this discarded holiday, and Thanksgiving Day, toward the close of November, was selected to take the place. And so began this now universal American custom which is kept up in every part of the world wherever any little group of Americans happen to be gathered together.
These serious colonists built better than they knew, for while the Christmas celebration has been shorn of none of its glories, another day has been added to the few holidays of the people, and this day is happily given over to kindly reunions of families and friends, and something thereby added to that good-will among men which binds society together in firmer fellowship.
"The Day Before Thanksgiving," in Harper's Weekly Supplement, New York: Harper & Brothers, Vol. XXXIV, No. 1770, 22 November 1890, p. 912+.