We do not really know what the Pilgrims ate at that first feast almost four hundred years ago, but the menu for the modern Thanksgiving has changed little over time. Turkey became the centerpiece of the meal in the 1860s. An aggressive advertising campaign by the poultry industry secured the bird's place as the symbol of the holiday after World War II when larger, hybrid turkeys were developed.
The quintessential modern Thanksgiving feast is memorialized in the famous Norman Rockwell painting known as Freedom from Want which graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. The image of a matriarch serving her large, extended family turkey and trimmings is as popular today as it was generations ago. Author Thompson writes, "Today Americans eat more than 535 million pounds of turkey every Thanksgiving."
Most households have their own Thanksgiving traditions of family, food, and fun. This year as you maintain these, add some new ones. Commemorate the day by asking guests to write messages of thanksgiving on a poster board, to be resurrected in years to come as a reminder of each year's bounty and blessings. Establish a time of reflection to share poems, Scripture verses, and meaningful prose. Invite college students or others who are away from home to share a meal with you.
Extend the blessings of the day by volunteering to help others. While thousands of people serve meals on Thanksgiving Day, the needs of the poor and homeless remain constant. Advocates say that it is especially hard to find help during the summer months. Choose a day in July or August to volunteer.
As 18-year-old Andrew May of Melrose, Massachusetts, says, "Thanksgiving is the best day of the year. It's a time to reflect, to be with family and friends, and to eat until you can't move."