Where Does the Origin of Eating Turkey For Thanksgiving Come From?

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Around the Thanksgiving holiday many Americans can be seen grabbing and preparing their turkey for the big feast. However, some may not realize where the traditions of cooking turkey comes from. 

Before the 19 century, Thanksgiving wasn’t widely celebrated around the states until President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863. According to an article by Ethan Trex, turkey was a common food for the feast because “The birds are large enough that they can feed a table full of hungry family members, and unlike chickens or cows, they don’t serve an additional purpose like laying eggs or making milk.” 

While eating turkey wasn’t documented by the Pilgrims, it was common to find the bird in the area. However, according to Emelyn Rude from Times Magazine, Sarah Joseph Hale’s accounts for the feast “emphasized a roast turkey [which] eventually became the model for the festivities adopted by the rest of the country.”  

While there’s a lot of uncertainty about where the symbol of the Thanksgiving Turkey came from, some tales suggest “The Great Turkey Walk” was where it originated. According to the stories, thousands of turkeys could be seen ‘gobbling’ down the country roads to the markets. More stories even suggest that great cattle drives would help the turkeys migrate from Vermont to Boston, Massachusetts or from Kentucky and Tennessee to Richmond, Virginia. Rude remarked, “While the modern turkey barely walks at all, these massive forced migrations of birds occurred well into the 1930s in some regions of the United States, particularly in the turkey towns of Texas, which held great celebratory ‘Turkey Trots’ for the birds streaming in by the thousands for the slaughter.”

While some origin stories about where eating turkey on Thanksgiving came from may be inaccurate, the tradition of having a turkey on the dinner table is still a major part of the holiday. In response to a turkey-less Thanksgiving meal, Founding Father, Alexander Hamiliton stated  “No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” 

Some may not believe that turkey’s became a big part of Thanksgiving due to a turkey-migration, but there are many other stories out there to adopt into one’s belief ideology.

Sara Schoenfeld is attending Snow College for the first time as a Communications major. She grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and found herself in Centerville, Utah her sophomore year in high school. At age 12, a fictional book touched her heart, causing a wishful spark to stir which led her to start writing her own inspirational stories. She continues to aspire towards achieving her goals by inspiring others through her writing.

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