402 years ago, a tradition began. There was a celebration for the harvest in Massachusetts. There were no grocery stores. There certainly was no takeout or food delivery. The Pilgrims in Plymouth hunted, gathered and planted their food. Those that survived the harsh Winter were able to give a heartfelt thanks with a 3-day long feast with the local natives who helped them. This is the origin of Thanksgiving.
Back to present day: Food prices are up 3.3% from 2022. Inflation has been a big issue. Compared to last year, the rate of increases has slowed. In 2022, prices jumped more than 10% from 2021.
While food prices in general are higher, your bill for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner may actually be lower than last year’s. A study by the American Farm Bureau found that a typical Thanksgiving meal, consisting of 12 traditional items, for 10 people will cost $61 this year. That’s down from the record high of $64 last year. It’s important to note, it’s still up 25% from 2019, pre-Covid.
The price of a Turkey has come down significantly this year. The reduction in cases of avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu, is the biggest driver here. Turkey prices dropped nearly 40% from last year. That reverses a 32% jump from October 2021 to October 2022. The average price for a 16-pound bird this year is $1.71 per pound across the country. That translates to a $27 bird. No surprise, the turkey is by far the most expensive item in the meal, accounting for nearly half the cost.
Fresh food prices are down, while many canned goods are up. This from a study by Wells Fargo. Americans can expect to pay 20% less for fresh cranberries this year, while the price of canned cranberry sauce is up 7%. That pumpkin pie will cost more, as the price of canned pumpkin jumped 30% from a year ago. Conversely, a variety of leafy greens are priced 10% lower than last year. Fresh wins the day.
What Americans from coast-to-coast consume on Thanksgiving Day is quite different from the original harvest celebration feast shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoags at Plymouth Colony in November of 1621. According to a writing from Edward Winslow, an attendee at the first Thanksgiving, the meal consisted of vension, waterfowl, corn, bread, shellfish and cod. Local vegetables that likely appeared on the table include onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas. The Wampanoag, like most eastern natives, had a “varied and extremely good diet.” The forest provided chestnuts, walnuts and beechnuts. “They grew flint corn (multicolored Indian corn), which was their staple. They also had different sorts of pumpkins and squash.” However, there is no evidence of pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving feast.
This annual event wasn’t always a thing. George Washington issued a proclamation, as our first President, to honor Thanksgiving in 1789. He declared Thursday, November 26th “for the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving.” This marked the first national celebration of the holiday under the new Constitution. It didn’t last. Our nation’s 3rd President, Thomas Jefferson, refused to endorse the tradition in 1801. To Jefferson, supporting the holiday meant supporting state-sponsored religion. Thanksgiving is rooted in Puritan religious traditions. Jefferson considered days of thanksgiving the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. No surprise, the rival Federalists disagreed with this stance.
Six decades later, when our nation was forged in the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be a national holiday. Our 16th President hoped that a day of Thanksgiving would help “heal the wounds of the nation” and “restore peace, harmony, tranquility and union.” It was embraced widely by the American people then and thereafter.
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the White House in 1933, Thanksgiving was still not yet a set holiday. It was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to declare its occurrence as well as the date. Up to that point, Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday of the month. This tradition became difficult to continue during the Great Depression as many Americans struggled to make ends meet.
Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30. Like 2023, November of 1933 had five Thursdays on the calendar. Having the holiday fall on the last day of the month meant that there were fewer shopping days left before Christmas. Retailers and business leaders knew that most people waited to start their holiday shopping after Thanksgiving. They feared critical revenue would be lost with the delay. Corporate America urged President Roosevelt to move the holiday up a week to Thursday, November 23. FDR decided against it, leaning on the fact that the tradition was in place for 7 decades. But the point was made.
The issue returned in 1939, and the country was still stuck in the Depression while the world was in a new war in Europe. This time, the President proclaimed Thanksgiving to be on November 23rd. The Economy needed a boost. The decision was met with controversy. Not every state embraced the date. In fact, New York and Connecticut celebrated Thanksgiving on different dates that year. To eliminate the issue, Congress passed a law declaring Thanksgiving a legal holiday on the 4th Thursday in November. All Americans would celebrate it together. Thanksgiving has been a national holiday ever since.
Exactly 100 years after Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday, America was in crisis again. Seven days before Thanksgiving in the year 1963, President John F Kennedy was killed. Our nation mourned. President Lyndon B Johnson, just a week on the job, addressed the American people:
“Tonight, on this Thanksgiving, I come before you to ask your help, to ask your strength, to ask your prayers that God may guard this Republic and guide my every labor. All of us have lived through seven days that none of us will ever forget. We are not given the divine wisdom to answer why this has been, but we are given the human duty of determining what is to be, what is to be for America, for the world, for the cause we lead, for all the hopes that live in our hearts.”
America knows challenges. Our nation’s history is founded in it. The United States has faced periods of conflict and crisis since its very beginning. Challenge is embraced, showing that this great nation can stand the test of time. We mustn’t forget that America was and still is an experiment.
Kennedy poignantly stated Americans do things, not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard. Few things in life worthwhile are easy to achieve. Today, six decades after JFK left Earth, our nation faces challenges both at home and abroad. In many ways, our union is being tested again. So there’s no time like the present to remember what binds us. It’s too easy to lose sight of what’s most important. Despite the challenges, We the People have so much to be thankful for.
We the people of Bedell Frazier are so grateful for you. Some have been on this journey with us for years, if not decades. Others have joined the ride just this year. We’ve all been through a lot together. More ahead. Bedell Frazier is built to last and ready for whatever comes our way.
Happy Thanksgiving. We’ll be back, dark and early on Monday.