The Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth to commemorate the gratitude of the harvest reaped after a harsh winter.
George Washington was the first president to declare Thanksgiving as a holiday in 1789 and then again in 1795. During the Civil War, President Lincoln looked for a way to unite the nation and in 1863 gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving.
In 1939, 1940, and 1941, President Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains.
For me, the word “Thanksgiving” brings back so many wonderful memories and traditions. It feels just like yesterday when my parents, brother, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered around the table in New York to celebrate Thanksgiving. Unfortunately many of my aunts and uncles are no longer with us, and the rest of the family live throughout the country, so my memories of wonderful times and people are very dear to me.
Traditions are such a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday, and every family has its own way of celebrating the holiday, from homemade cranberry sauce to taking in a football game, or watching the Macy's Day parade on TV.
I grew up watching the Laurel and Hardy movie, “March of the Wooden Soldiers” at Thanksgiving time, and will continue to do so. Some families continue to fight over the wish bone from the turkey. This tradition is called a "lucky break" the tradition of tugging on either end of a turkey bone to win the larger piece and its accompanying "wish" dates back to the Etruscans of 322 B.C. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered. England and the English colonists carried the tradition on to America.
This Cranberry-Pear sauce is delicious, versatile and so easy to prepare and hopefully will become a tradition in your family. It is perfect with turkey, goose, duck and pork. You will never buy canned cranberry sauce again. It will surely be a crowd pleaser at your meal. As a leftover, you can add to pancakes the next morning, and it also freezes well. If you do not have lemon peel, substitute with 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest.
Gratitude is essential to Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims taught us; as turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. This Thursday, we will reflect on what we are grateful for, even in a year when many have struggled to find work, pay bills and shelter their families. But whether it takes the form of a prayer, a poem or personal reflections, gratitude can do more than elevate a holiday feast.
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection on the blessings that make our lives worth living. I am very grateful for my family and friends who are always there when I need them. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.
Happy cooking and eating!
- 3 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 fresh ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced into ½ inch or smaller pieces
- 1 teaspoon, minced lemon peel
- ½ cup orange juice
In a medium saucepan, stir together the berries and sugar over medium heat until the berries pop, approximately 10 minutes. Stir in pears and lemon peel and orange juice. Cook until the pears are tender, but don’t let them overcook to the point they dissolve (they will turn a pretty red from the cranberries), roughly 5-8 minutes. Stir frequently for 3 minutes and mixture thickens slightly.
Cool to room temperature, then store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Serve chilled. Serves 6-8.