Not Your Usual Thanksgiving

Over the meadow and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow…

That traditional Thanksgiving song might have been popular during the 19th century when Thanksgiving was first recognized as a holiday in America, but it didn’t reflect real life for many people. As cities grew in size, fewer and fewer people harvested their own food, sleighs became obsolete, and people didn’t find much to celebrate at harvest time.

By the late 1800s, many children didn’t have a big dinner to look forward to on Thanksgiving. In the cities, especially New York and Philadelphia, one of the most ragamuffinspopular ways for children to have holiday treats was to dress up as ragamuffins and go from door to door begging for money.  The ritual was mentioned in Betty Smith’s book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This tradition flourished in New York City for 50 years or more into the 1940s. There are still ragamuffin parades on Thanksgiving in some parts of Brooklyn and the suburbs. It wasn’t until after World War II that Halloween took over in most of the country as the holiday for dressing up and begging for treats.

The reason for celebrating Thanksgiving on a Thursday rather than any other day of the week is not clear. Some people have suggested it is because ministers used to give lectures on Thursday afternoon in many churches, which made that day rather special. But whatever the reason, when more and more people began working in offices and Thanksgiving adswitched to a five-day workweek, the Thursday date left an inconvenient Friday hanging. Many schools and offices began giving people the Friday off, and that was the beginning of Black Friday—the biggest shopping day of the year. Merchants began offering special sales and encouraged everyone to start their holiday shopping as soon as Thanksgiving was over. We all know what that led to—stores started opening earlier and earlier on Friday morning and some have now spilled over into Thanksgiving itself.

Aside from eating, shopping, and watching football, what else can people do on Thanksgiving? One suggestion is to give someone else a chance to have something to be thankful for. During a year like this when we are confronted every day by pictures of refugees, tired, hungry and desperate, it gets harder and harder to enjoy that turkey with all the trimmings.

It seems as if the least we can do is share our bounty with some of the other people around the world who are not as lucky as we are. The charities listed below have all been given high grades by Charity Navigator, so you can be sure that your gift will be used efficiently to benefit the needy.

International Rescue Committee

USA for UNHCR United Nations Refugee Agency

Helping Hand for Relief and Development

Maybe if we spread the goodies around the world we can all have a better Thanksgiving this year.Thanksgiving

5 Comments

Filed under holidays

5 responses to “Not Your Usual Thanksgiving

  1. Paul Schwarz

    As far as begging for treats and Halloween pennies goes, I can remember doing that in the late 1930’s when I was a little boy living in the Chicago suburb of Maywood. i always was accompanied by a little girl and, since my mother forbad me to accept any money, my little girl friend got all the money. We moved to a new suburb of Chicago in June, 1942 and then being 10 years old, I became too old for this kind of activity.
    During that first summer (1942) in the new town since I hadn’t made any friends yet, my father, on two occasions, drove me to another suburb where I could play one day with Lynn whose family had also moved from Maywood to another suburb after the war started. I remember Lynn well because she is the girl who had said to me one day in 1941, “Let’s kiss like the movie stars kiss!” We didn’t and I have forever lamented that. I never saw Lynn again after that summer of 1942 but l learned from my mother that Lynn had gone to college and become a registered nurse.

  2. Laura

    I can only say “Amen!!!!!!!”

    Laura

  3. NWZinn

    Thanks, Adele; hope your message reaches a large audience…

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