Why do we have Thanksgiving Turkey?

Haley Riddlebarger

The first Thanksgiving didn't include turkey?!

It is speculated that at the first Thanksgiving celebration, when the Pilgrims and the Native Americans came together and ate, they ate venison, not turkey. Turkey did not become the Thanksgiving centerpiece until much later, when a woman by the name of Sarah Joseph Hale, author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," is responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. In one of her books, she wrote a chapter about Thanksgiving, and used the turkey as the star of the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving not widely accepted?!

There was a time in the United States where not everyone celebrated Thanksgiving. There was always the idea of giving thanks, and celebrating the harvest, but it was not always honored with a feast. Sometimes, presidents would call for a Thanksgiving celebration, but the idea had not yet caught on nationwide. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. At this time, the turkey was chosen as the bird to be consumed because it was large enough to feed a lot of people, and it served no utilitarian purpose, whereas cows make milk, and chickens lay eggs. This bird was also chosen because it is an American bird, and it seemed fitting.

In conclusion:

We have come a long way from the first Thanksgiving celebration, where turkey, cranberry sauce, and even stuffing were not consumed. There are a lot of people to thank for not only bringing about Thanksgiving as a national holiday, but for making turkey the designated bird for the occasion! Sarah Joseph Hale, who wrote about turkey in her books, an Abraham Lincoln who declared Thanksgiving a national holiday are both partially responsible for the day we all look forward to each year! Aren't you glad they liked turkey?

Try it out!!

  • Think about what your family eats on Thanksgiving. Do your food choices go along with the traditional thanksgiving meal, or do they vary? Ask your parents why your family celebrates the way they do!


  • Think about the things that you are thankful for this year, and make sure you let people know that you are thankful for them!