The Real Reason Why We Eat Turkey On Thanksgiving
There’s a good reason we’ve nicknamed this celebration “turkey day.”
Would it really be Thanksgiving without a big, juicy turkey? The bird and the holiday are so intertwined that we’ve even nicknamed the entire celebration “turkey day.” But why, exactly, do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Read on, and we’ll tell you how this tradition came to be.
The first documented Thanksgiving dinner took place in 1621, when the pilgrims and the natives sat down to enjoy an especially good harvest together in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Given the setting—fall in Massachusetts—and the timing—1621—the dinner was limited to things you could grow or hunt in New England at that time—and yes, turkey was one of them. According to accounts by Plymouth governor William Bradford, that first feast included waterfowl (think: ducks), fish, and of course, plenty of turkeys.
From that night on, the Thanksgiving dinner tradition continued, but technology and time changed the menu a bit. We don’t have to tell you that many new traditions (like green bean casserole and cranberry sauce) have since found their place at the modern Thanksgiving table. But more importantly, when it comes to today’s discussion, entrees like fish and duck fell out of favor, leaving turkey to be the go-to dish in just about every household. Why turkey as opposed to those other proteins? Well, not only was turkey relatively affordable and widely available, but just one bird could feed the entire table, and could roast in the oven for hours unattended, leaving you free to do other things (read: hang out and watch football).
So regardless of whether you’re on Team White Meat or Team Dark Meat, now you know that turkey was indeed a part of the very first Thanksgiving dinner. And while many of the other early main dishes no longer make appearances in the traditional spread, turkey has endured. And thank goodness for that, because bringing a leftover waterfowl sandwich to work on Monday just doesn’t sound quite as appetizing.