Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Surprising answer

‘Tis the season for mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, stuffing and turkey. This begs the question: Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Let’s unpack this.

Allison Hunt – Author
A turkey prepared for Thanksgiving
Source: Getty Images

The essentials:

  • The first Thanksgiving took place in November 1621.
  • Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863.
  • Thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale, turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving.

Article continues below ad

It is the time of giving thanks. We here at Distract We’re grateful that the writers’ and actors’ strikes are over and we can get back to enjoying all of our favorite TV shows in the new season. We are grateful for the endless joy that dog videos on TikTok bring us. But most of all, we are grateful for everything that is Taylor Swift, especially for putting Travis Kelce on the map.

All joking aside, Thanksgiving is truly one of our favorite holidays. One of the main reasons is that there is so much delicious food involved: the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the cakes upon cakes upon cakes. But that may be an unpopular opinion because we’re not exactly crazy about turkeys.

Why do we even eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Let’s unpack this.

Article continues below ad

Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

A plate of food at a Thanksgiving dinner
Source: Getty Images

Ahh, the question is as old as time. Or as old as the very first Thanksgiving, which actually took place in November 1621. In school we learned that Native Americans taught the Pilgrims various harvesting techniques that allowed them to have enough food to survive the winter. In honor of the bounty, the colonists held a feast for everyone, the first Thanksgiving.

You might be thinking, “Oh, we have to eat turkey because of the first Thanksgiving.” And you’re wrong. Accordingly The History Channel, the Pilgrims and Native Americans most likely ate geese, among other things. Although turkeys were plentiful in the area, they were eaten primarily by the wealthy population.

Article continues below ad

We have to fast forward another 200 years to find out why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving. And that reason has the name Sarah Josepha Hale. Sarah was a magazine editor, an established author and, in every way, a woman ahead of her time. Sarah passionately wrote letters to politicians urging them to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She hoped Thanksgiving would unite a country on the brink of civil war.

Her depiction of a Thanksgiving dinner comes from her 1827 novel Norwood is the real reason we eat turkey. A chapter in the book is devoted to describing the meal and describes a turkey being “placed at the head of the table” (via Britannica).

Article continues below ad

Sarah is not only the reason we eat turkey, but she is also the reason Thanksgiving is a national holiday. In 1863, after the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln himself decreed that the last Thursday in November should be Thanksgiving Day. He agreed with Sarah that it could unite the country.

And there you have it, folks! While Sarah probably didn’t expect her legacy to be focused on a bid, she is literally the reason for the season and we are so grateful.

Gary B. Graves

Gary B. Graves is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Gary B. Graves joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: GaryBGraves@worldtimetodays.com.

Related Articles

Back to top button