We Americans are all aware of the Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving story in one iteration or another. We all made the construction paper hand turkeys in school and put on pageants washing over some of the more violent moments. But it turns out the real reason we celebrate the holiday the way we do started with a novel written by one Sarah Joepha Hale.
Hale, also the creator of Mary Had a Little Lamb (fun fact!), wrote a novel in 1827 called Northwood which included a whole chapter focused on a Thanksgiving dinner. A whole chapter. I wonder how many pages were devoted to Uncle Greg snoring on the couch…
Because for Hale, it wasn’t about the food; it was about the family. And about the nation. Sitting around a table, getting sloshed on wine and drowsy on tryptophan (or just overeating) is meant to bring people together.
When she later became the editor of a lady’s home journal called Godey’s Lady Book, she pushed hard for making it a national thang hoping it would bring the country together. The people listened and eventually, the educational masses glossed over her contribution. Typical.
So when you’re home, or not home, this Thanksgiving, think of Sarah Joepha Hale and remember what the holiday is really about: re-writing history. (But seriously, we hope you get along with your family this year.)