Thanksgiving traditions… lots of good food… family gathering… Macy’s parade… football games. How are Thanksgiving celebrations different today than they were in the 20’s and 30’s?
You may be surprised to find many of the same traditions we have today were already in place during this time period.
First of all, the national day of giving thanks for all the blessings we receive was started officially by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. He declared the last Thursday in November to be the day of thanksgiving. Prior to this date, each state picked its own day to celebrate. The last Thursday was used each year until 1941. President Franklin Roosevelt urged the Congress to change Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday in November, as it is today.
The tradition of giving thanks in a family gathering with lots of good food started way back with the Pilgrims, as we all learned in school. During the 20’s and 30’s, mothers and grandmothers worked much harder to get all the food ready for the family – at least before electricity came to the farm houses. Cooks were challenged by wood-burning stoves since they are hard to regulate the heat. I bet there were more burned pies or maybe turkeys back then.
Macy’s parade… That tradition started during the 20’s. The parade started in 1920 by the employees of Macy’s Department Store in New York City. Many were immigrants and wanted to show their thanks for their adopted country. By 1927 the big helium balloons were added to the parade with Felix the Cat as the first one. The parade continued to grow in scope until 1934 when Disney joined the parade with the first Mickey Mouse balloon. It’s grown since then, except during WWII when the materials for the balloons could not be spared from war use.
Last, but not least… football games… Football games were played on Thanksgiving Day at the high school level in the early 20’s. The NFL didn’t have Thanksgiving Day games until 1934 in Detroit. G.A Richards started this tradition with a game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. The difference at that time was that men were not glued to the TV watching the game (TV’s didn’t exist back then). Instead they may have been glued to the radio listening to the plays of the game. The first NFL Thanksgiving Day game was broadcast on ninety-four radio stations around the country. By the way, the Bears won that game.
Hope you have a great Thanksgiving Day celebration this year with family or friends.