Thanksgiving is an important national holiday in the US and it is believed that it dates to the Mayflower and the first colonists that came over from England. The first Thanksgiving Day celebration was in November 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Native American Wampanoag people organized a harvest feast together. In the following centuries, Thanksgiving was celebrated sporadically in various colonies but it was only in 1863, after a decade-long push from the magazine editor and author Sarah Josepha Hale, that
President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November every year. in 1939, during the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move it up a week to the third week of November to encourage sales in retail before the holidays.
Even if the Native American Wampanoag and the colonists came together to realize the first Thanksgiving in 1621, some Americans argue that “Thanksgiving celebrations mask the true history of oppression and bloodshed that underlies the relationship between European settlers and Native Americans.” (See History of Thanksgiving in History.com.)
Today, it is one of the main national holidays in the US where almost 90% of the population gathers with families and friends to spend time together and feast on turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and much more. It is not sure if the pilgrims and Native Americans actually had turkey on their table back in 1621, research stresses that rather had “venison, fish and shellfish as well as corn and other vegetables” on the table. It was first in the 19th century, thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale who in her magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book wrote about the essence of the Thanksgiving celebration and made turkey into the staple dish, according to her vision.
More Recent Traditions on Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving is not only about a shared experience around the lunch and dinner table, it is also about parades and American football. While preparing the turkey and spending time together, families and friends are, in general, watching parades or American football (NFL). The Macy’s parade is the largest and most well-known parade that has been organized by the Macy’s department store in New York since 1924. When it comes to American Football, also in Europe we know to associate American Thanksgiving Day with American football.
But why is there American football on Thanksgiving Day?
It all started in 1934 when the Detroit Spartans played the World Champion Chicago Bears at home. The radio executive, George A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans in 1934 and moved the team to Detroit where they became the Detroit Lions. Richards decided to set up a game on Thanksgiving Day to attract attention and more fans. Nowadays, the Detroit Lions traditionally play the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and have done so since 1966.
A European Spin on Thanksgiving Menu and Activities
Herb-roasted turkey (see a possible recipe here):
Chianti Classico is a great pairing for roasted turkey because its bright acidity and red fruit notes can cut through the richness of the meat. Additionally, the wine’s earthy undertones will complement the savory herbs used in the roast. For an extra touch, you might want to consider making a stuffing with Italian herbs that will pair perfectly with this wine. The Chianti Classico Riserva 2015 from Fattoria di Montemaggio pairs well with herb-roasted turkey and the Thanksgiving Day spirit.
Wild Mushroom Risotto (see a possible recipe here):
Chianti Classico is a wine that pairs very well with mushroom risotto. The earthy flavors of the mushrooms are a perfect complement to the wine’s terroir, while the creamy texture of the risotto complements the wine’s structure. Together, they create a nuanced pairing that brings out the best in both the dish and the wine. The combination of Chianti Classico 2019 from Fattoria di Montemaggio and risotto with mushrooms brings out the essence of the Radda terroir.
Tiramisu for Dessert (see a possible recipe here):
Wrap up the meal with a classic Italian dessert – Tiramisu. The tiramisu’s coffee and cocoa notes align better with a Port or perhaps a Chianti Classico Vin Santo. Still, the smoothness and structure of an older vintage Torre di Montemaggio from Fattoria di Montemaggio is a wonderful alternative for the Thanksgiving feast.
Alternative Activities on Thanksgiving
Let us look at some fun alternatives to watch football or parades on TV on Thanksgiving Day.
Wine Tasting Experience:
Organize a mini-blind tasting at home with your family and friends. Just ask everyone to bring a bottle of their choice, cover the bottles with a paper bag, and agree on a set of parameters for discussing the wines you are tasting. It can be as easy as defining smells and taste, saying why you think it is a good or less convincing wine, and trying to guess the grape or type of wine. Afterward, you can reveal the bottles and share them together during the day. It should all be an easygoing and relaxed wine tasting to have fun together.
Reading Circle or Book Swap:
This is a bit more advanced activity but it could work if you are a group interested in reading. Why not ask your family and friends what books they have read lately and then decide on one book as the Thanksgiving Day discussion topic? Discuss your thoughts about the book and perhaps ask each other to choose one passage in the book that spoke to you and read it out loud to each other. It could also be as easy as choosing a favorite Thanksgiving Day recipe from a recipe book and sharing it with each other.
Tell us about your Thanksgiving Day!
Written by Katarina Andersson.