The Day Before Thanksgiving - 1890


Women Prepare the Turkey and Other Foods in the Kitchen Beginning the Day Before Thanksgiving.

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 could see little to be grateful 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." However, Neither custom nor proclamations limit the day's business to returning 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?"

As every well-regulated housewife knows, the day does "conjoin the festival of the belly with the festival of praise." Before the day arrives, there is an urgent need; proper provision shall be made for the more festive part of the celebration.


Our artist has recognized this. Else, why should so grave a consultation be held over the turkeys that 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 that it is the delightful fashion of cookbooks to give—a little sage, a little onion, a little parsley, and something else?

Whatever the council determines, it is hoped that just a little green pepper will be added to the dressing and a little of everything else, which is good and 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. However, the day has lost its early significance to a great extent.

In the early colonial days, the Puritans of New England abolished Christmas as a relic of popery and prelacy, which they held to 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 happens 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. This day is happily given to kindly reunions of families and friends and something thereby added to that goodwill 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+.


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