There is a whole passel of turkeys about to be baked, fried, roasted, and smoked.
How Many Turkeys?
Forty-five million birds. That’s how many turkeys Americans will eat on Thursday, plus or minus a few thousand. But we are a big nation, with a lot of big people, and Thanksgiving is a big holiday.
The National Bird?
Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird, arguing that turkeys were uniquely North American. But the Bald Eagle won the race. For 364 days, the Eagle soars high, free, and majestic. But on Thanksgiving, on that one special day, the turkey is king. Yes, we kill and eat the king, but in terms of popularity, he is the clear winner. And we were never going to have fried eagle for Thanksgiving.
Alexander Hamilton said, “No citizen of the United States shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” Well put. But it was President Lincoln who, in 1863, made a presidential proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving. Here we are, 153 years later, gearing up to carve 45, 000,000 turkeys.
It’s A Social Bird
It’s a meal shared with family and friends. The Pilgrims shared their feast with Wampanoag Native Americans. Edward Winslow recorded there were 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans at the three day feast. They probably had fewer than 45 million birds.
Our meal will feature traditional favorites like cranberries, cornbread dressing, some kind of lime jello salad thing, and pumpkin and pecan pies for desert. Yum.
They had lost nearly half their colony that first winter. It was a most discouraging result for those who had so deeply sacrificed for a slice of the new world. But the colonists professed a profound faith, believing that God led them to this land, to discover all that is best in a life lived in freedom and prosperity.
Our Thanksgiving isn’t about surviving a bitter winter. It’s more about a day off from work to gather around the table with our favorite people. We will have great amounts of rich food laced with sweet fellowship, and then there will be football with pie and ice cream. God bless America.
But maybe it’s also about something else. Perhaps our Thanksgiving really is a God thing. The Pilgrims sailed across a violent sea, to an unknown future, to establish a new life in a new world. Did the Lord our God lead them here? Are we richly blessed today because of their faith and courage?
We are richly blessed, and I believe most of us would agree to that, so how do we express our gratitude, how do we give thanks on Thanksgiving?
I want to believe that 45 million turkeys will not have made the last full measure of sacrifice just so we can consume them and rush back to the TV.
Look for part 2 Wednesday morning.